xoFOOD: Bar Garnishes That Are Good Enough to Eat on Their Own!

I love drinks that come with snacks.
Publish date:
April 7, 2014
snacks, xoFood

Fancy cocktails with fancy things in them have always been a favorite of mine. I love a drink with snacks. A Bloody Mary (without celery because celery can sail away in a boat), martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives, cherries in an old fashioned. I like to drink and I like to eat, and it’s nice when one item on the menu can satisfy both urges.

Because our birthdays are very close, Sean and I usually throw a joint party (if we throw one at all) and this year we're combining our already combined birthday with a going away party because we are moving to Portland, Oregon!

Even though the party won't take place for a few months, I'm already obsessing about all of the little details like cocktail garnishes. The following three recipes are definitely items that will be incorporated into the final menu.


They’re not here. They’re not here because you should just buy Luxardo cherries and be delirious with happiness. There is no improving upon perfection. I urge you to look past the cherries and come along on a savory garnish journey with me.

Quick Vaguely Sweet but Mostly Sour Pickles

I love pickles in all of their applications. On their own or in a drink or on a sandwich, I will never reject a pickle. You could ferment your own, but if you are like me and unable to think further into the future than suppertime, quick pickles may be the way to go.

You will need:

  • A large cucumber (whatever variety you prefer, though Kirby cucumbers stay firmer than other varieties)
  • Half a yellow onion
  • 4 stalks of dill, snipped
  • Half a cup of apple cider vinegar
  • Half a cup of white vinegar
  • 1 T salt
  • 4 T sugar
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 T mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves of garlic (smashed)

Slice your cucumbers thinly. Feed a couple of slices to your dogs. Slice your onion vertically so it resembles pieces of a blooming onion. Does that make sense? Just think about slicing it into rings and then do the opposite of that, though I guess you could do rings and that would be fine too. Just slice the onion however you want. Do NOT feed onion to your dogs.

Place your cucumbers, onions, and dill into your pickling receptacle. I used an old Clausen jar.

Heat the remaining ingredients over medium heat until it begins to simmer and all the sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture into the jar. Let everything come to room temperature and chill before serving, ideally overnight.

Use in a Bloody Mary, pickletinis, alongside olives in filthy martinis, or just put them out with a cheese board for snacking.

Claire’s Lazy Vanilla Ginger Bitters

Bitters are one of those things that can be whatever you want them to be. I’m sure there are some cocktail purists out there who would argue that I’m bastardizing bitters, but according to the most trusted internet resource of our time, Wikipedia, bitters are simply an “alcoholic preparation flavored with botanical matter such that the end result is characterized by a bitter or bittersweet flavor.”

If you want to get very serious and exacting about bitters, I recommend this post.

I thought about trying to replicate “classic” bitters, but I already have a bottle of Angostura, so I decided to experiment. I went to my closest hippy grocery store and bought a bunch of plant pieces and then steeped them in high proof alcohol. (I used vodka, but anything 100 proof or higher will work. Use Everclear if you want even less flavor interference from your alcohol.)

The result was sweet, spicy, herbal, and of course a little bitter.

You will need (“need” is used loosely here because I encourage you to use any plant pieces that strike your fancy):

  • A mason jar worth of high proof alcohol, vodka if you don’t want the alcohol to affect the flavor of the bitters, but something like rye whiskey can add an interesting dimension.
  • 1 T of sarsaparilla (this was my “bittering” element). Bittering agents usually take up 10-50% of the botanical blend. I was originally going to use gentian root but that is a very expensive root, at least at my nearby health food store.
  • 1 T of pink peppercorns (lightly cracked)
  • 1 T allspice berries (lightly cracked)
  • 1 T cocoa nibs
  • A vanilla bean, split
  • A piece of ginger about an inch long, cut into strips

Now. There are two ways to infuse your bitters. One way is to put all of your ingredients into separate jars, let them infuse into the alcohol, and then blend them together in small portions until you reach your desired flavor profile. The other is to just dump everything in one jar and infuse it all together.

Guess which one I used?

If you guessed the laziest way possible, you guessed correctly.

After dumping everything in a jar and covering it with vodka, I let it sit there for about two weeks, shaking the jar every once in a while.

Strain out plant bits and pour into a little dropper bottle. I'm storing the remainder in the fridge, but you probably don't need to because of all the ethanol.

I’m looking forward to using these in an old fashioned, but a few drops in soda water is pretty good too.

Savory Martini Olives

Do you ever finish a dirty martini and wish you had more olives? It’s sad, but the only choice is to order another martini (such a burden).


I found the original recipe for martini olives in one of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks, but you can find it on her website. I adapted it based on what I had in my pantry and I LOVE THEM.

You will need:

  • About a cup and a half of whatever olives you like in a martini (I used some giant green ones that were stuffed with gorganzola)
  • 2 oz. of Gin
  • About 8 cucumber slices (I really love the combination of cucumber with gin, which I'm sure you already know.)
  • A drizzle of sesame oil

Combine everything in a bowl and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Serve as a snack or use in martinis (duh).

What are your favorite drinks with snacks? I love it when a cocktail comes with some sort of meat, like shrimp or chorizo. Fruit's cool too, though.

Claire would love to tweet about drinks and snacks. @clairelizzie