Does Slapping Herbs Affect Their Flavor in Cocktails or Garnishes?

Does slapping herbs really enhance flavor in your cocktail, or is it just a flashy gimmick?

To get to the bottom of this question, we asked Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, the manager of Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston, Massachusetts, and an expert in mixology, “Does slapping herbs affect the flavor, or is it the herbal equivalent of twirling cocktail shakers and juggling whiskey bottles?” He replied that it does indeed affect the herb’s flavor and isn’t just a flashy gimmick. “It can be a light pressing or a slap,” he explained. “Depending on the type of herb, it breaks the outer cell structure of the herb, releasing the aroma. As much of what we taste actually comes through a sense of smell, enhancing the aromatized ingredient of the drink will highlight that on the palate.”

Makes sense, but how does it translate to cooking? We compared basil and mint leaves in a Caprese-type salad, using raw, untouched leaves in one sample and slapping or rubbing the leaves used in the second sample. Tasters noticed a marked difference in the strength of flavor and aroma in the slapped herbs before they were mixed into the salad, but once they mingled with the other ingredients, the enhanced flavor was lost.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Slapping herbs can enhance the flavor and aroma of herb garnishes, but if you’re mixing the herbs into a dish, there’s no need for violence.

This is a members' feature.