Slice of the party: A cucumber garnisher is Hendrick's latest ode to innovation

You saw the giant cuke-slicing device around Tampa Bay last week, right?

click to enlarge Up top, the Garnisher's cycler moves cucumbers through an elaborate system of contraptions. - Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Up top, the Garnisher's cycler moves cucumbers through an elaborate system of contraptions.

A giant mobile cucumber slicer parked outside our offices last week. Of course. Where else would it park? As if there was a better place for the new Hendrick’s Gin Grand Garnisher (yes, it’s a thing — a wonderful, wonderful thing).

News flash: Journalists like gin.

The Garnisher is sorta like a 38-foot-long unicorn, as you really have to see it in action to believe it. This head-tilting device can travel as fast as 25 miles per hour on the road, with help from a hybrid powertrain consisting of a large diesel motor and a dapper dude pedaling a penny-farthing bicycle. Up top, the cycler puts in some work to move the cukes through an elaborate system of contraptions (think pneumatic tubing, interlocking gears and rotating blades), slicing them to cocktail garnish perfection.

On Nov. 29, we’re told the marvel before us is able to churn out 18 cucumbers per hour. And that’s just fine for the cuke-infused Hendrick’s, a spirits brand that holds the salad ingredient in high regard.

What’s the point of the Garnisher’s nationwide tour (which kicked off in New York City over the summer on World Cucumber Day and has visited other big cities like Houston, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego)? I asked Fred Parent during our demo.

“It’s an ode to really returning to a time when travel was great… when we flew in hot air balloons and dirigibles and had ridiculous cucumber-cutting machines with wheels,” said Parent, who looks after the South as a Hendrick’s brand ambassador.

The peculiar roving slicer is also meant to showcase the brand’s innovation. Hendrick’s has created other cocktail machines in the past, including a suitcase with a Rube Goldberg-style crank that pours a G&T and flicks a cucumber into your glass. Then there’s the Curious Cocktail Configurator, a four-lever hydraulics system that pulls off the perfect Negroni.

“It’s like taking a simple task and making it inexplicably inefficient,” Parent said. “There was a time when that was awesome.”

click to enlarge Red Snapper was one cocktail that the CL staff sampled from the Garnisher. - Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Red Snapper was one cocktail that the CL staff sampled from the Garnisher.

Elsewhere in Tampa Bay during Hendrick’s three-day visit, a bunch of lucky locals caught the Garnisher at St. Petersburg’s Copper Shaker and Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails, plus the Tampa location for MacDinton’s. The device — which hit up Jacksonville from Nov. 16 to 18 — is expected to make a third Florida stop: Miami from Dec. 5 to 9.

The final destination for the 21-town tour is Washington, D.C. (where gin will probably be not only welcome, but necessary), later in December.

I’m hoping you had a chance to taste the Garnisher’s expertly garnished bounty IRL, but if you missed it, here’s the recipe for Happy Go Lucky, a flavorful, plum-colored punch the staff and I happily downed at the demo. According to Parent, he dreamed up the Hendrick’s concoction after arriving in Tampa.

“I woke up on Monday and was like, ‘I wanna do something different this week,’” said the brand ambassador. “I love black cherry with pineapple, so I went with that, and then I added some nutmeg and ginger for kind of a fall flavor — and lemon to just brighten it up.

“It’s pretty simple and directly to the point, which is what I like.”

You’ll dig it, too.

click to enlarge Happy Go Lucky. - Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Happy Go Lucky.

Happy Go Lucky

Makes 1

1 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin

1/2 ounce fresh lemon

1/2 ounce pineapple juice

1/2 ounce black cherry juice

Combine all ingredients. Top with grated nutmeg and garnish with a cucumber wheel.