The purpose of a cocktail garnish is two fold - 1. improve the appearance of the drink and 2. add a complementary flavor or aromatic to the cocktail. While fresh fruits, flowers, and herbs all fulfill both of these intentions they also inevitably lead to waste in high volume bars. Craftier garnish options such as stencils, origami, and whatever is happening here, can be sustainable and are great for Instagram but they're not so great for throwing dinner parties or prepping a busy bar for 300 covers. That's where one of my favorite garnishes comes in: the dehydrated citrus wheel.
These powerhouse garnishes smell delicious, are visually stunning, and are shelf stable - so you'll never have to make a drink with a sad, dusty, old lime wedge on it again. Not to mention, their cost is lower than other hearty garnishes (sorry star anise, but you're breaking my bank).
While you can buy dehydrated citrus at most Asian grocery stores, or on Amazon I typically make my own. If you don't have a dehydrator, simply set your oven to 200°F and follow the recipe below:
Pre-heat oven to 200°F
Using a serrated knife, cut 5 limes into thin wheels
Place lime slices on a wire rack - do not overlap slices
Bake for 2-4 hours, until wheels are completely dry to the touch. They will turn dark brown, but they're not burning - the chlorophyll that makes them green has simply evaporated!
Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Note: To dehydrate lemons, bake them about 30 min longer, for oranges or grapefruits add an additional hour, or until dry.
Dehydrated Citrus in Action
These pretty citrus wheels can rest on top of cocktails for a warm citrus aromatic, or you can soak them in the liquid to allow them to slowly re-hydrate as you sip, which is a great way of adding a little boost of acidity to a sweet cocktail like an Old Fashioned or Hot Toddy. If you want to get even craftier, bury them in sugar or salt and allow the flavor to infuse for 7 days. You can then use the resulting citrus salt or sugar to rim cocktail glasses, season food, or make syrups.