A well-executed or creative garnish has the ability to emblazon the memory of a cocktail within the imbiber’s mind. Whether it’s eagles cut from orange peels in Sazeracs or dolphins made from bananas in tiki drinks, they’ll leave a memory of a specific time and place. Lately, I have seen cocktails embellished with intricate designs made by spraying bitters over a stencil, so I decided to write a quick how-to article. Garnishing with a cocktail stencil and bitters is simple, but there are few tips and tricks that will help you along the way.
For starters, you’ll need a drink that has a thick foamy head to hold the sprayed artwork, which is most often bitters sprayed from a small atomizer. I chose the classic whiskey sour which uses egg whites to provide me with a “canvas” of thick foam. At a minimum, the tools you’ll need are blank stencil sheets, an X-ACTO knife, a surface to cut on, and an atomizer. If you want to skip making a custom stencil, you can pick up these pre-made stencils for under $2.
- Step one is choosing a design and printing it at a size that is appropriate for the width of the serving glass. You don’t want it to go over the bounds of the glass or be so small that the result isn’t discernible. (Free PDF template available at the end of this article.)
- Cut a square of the blank stencil material large enough to cover the printed design and tape the design to it. (Amazon links to all supplies and tools can be found in the resources section of this article.)
- Place the taped design and stencil sheet on a cutting mat or a kitchen cutting board and carefully cut out the design. Wash the stencil.
- Make the cocktail. I suggest making a cocktail with egg whites and using a dry shake preparation. I also suggest using a ball whisk or Hawthorne strainer spring to aid in creating the foamy texture. Ensure the cocktail’s wash line isn’t low or the design won’t be discernible.
- Make sure the stencil does not come into contact with the surface of the drink or the design will be ruined when the stencil is removed. Use an atomizer to mist bitters or other contrasting liquid onto the surface of the drink through the stencil.
- Carefully remove the stencil and enjoy.
- 2 ounces whiskey
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- 1 egg white*
- bitters for garnish
- Combine whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice, and egg white in a cocktail shaker and dry shake. (Dry shaking means you don't include the ice. Use of a ball whisk or Hawthorne strainer spring can help.)
- Add ice and shake until chilled.
- Double strain into a coupe glass.
* Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.