The Cocktail Flower Garnish That Can Backfire In A Big Way

Look, taste, aroma — up until now; these have been the key elements of any decent cocktail. But increasingly, mixologists have been experimenting with another sensory dimension. Known as "mouthfeel," it's all about the sensation on your tongue, lips, and throat, via The Spruce Eats. And this can be created through ingredients, garnishes, and cocktail rim powders. A star of the show is a small, innocent-looking golden flower that has the power to transform a simple concoction into a magic potion of sorts. According to Liquor, it's known as the Acmella oleracea or Szechuan button due to its sensory similarity to Szechuan peppercorns. Yet, it actually hails from Brazil. This flowering herb also goes by the aliases buzz button and electric daisy and might be the cocktail garnish you've been missing. But what's so special about it?

In essence, buzz buttons can enhance your entire experience with a drink. As described by Speciality Produce, the flower itself tastes grassy, citrusy, and astringent — but it offers so much more than that. Chew on it, and you develop heightened tasting abilities. Moreover, the experience is dynamic and ongoing, meaning a cocktail can seem to change flavor — and even texture and temperature — sip by sip (via Punch). In essence, this little flower turns your drink into a shifting kaleidoscope. Just bear in mind that the electric daisy is pretty potent; in fact, it's far closer to Gatsby's jagged Daisy Buchanan than any humble lawn plant. 

Should this cocktail ingredient come with a warning?

In other words, buzz buttons can sometimes backfire — and that's because they can be a little overwhelming. This floral cocktail garnish releases spilanthol, an alkaloid that activates your salivary glands, via Atlas Obscura. This brings flavors into sharper focus so you can pick out various ingredients, nuances, and layers in your drink. Usually, this begins with a burst of peppermint-like heat that awakens your taste buds; some even compare it to mini electric volts or sticking your tongue into a live battery, per At Home With Rebecka

Next up is numbness, followed by a tingling or spritzy bubbling on the tongue that's supposedly similar to eating Pop Rocks candy (via Aero Garden), then finally a cooling off period. So far, so intriguing. Yet as most people aren't used to this kind of punch in their drink unless the bartender warns them, they can panic and think they have an allergic reaction. And as described by The Ledger, some people can be sensitive to the flower and experience excessive drooling — hardly the smoothest look in a bar. 

Here's how to best enjoy buzz buttons

Yet this doesn't mean you shouldn't jump on the electric daisy train — no one's trying to spoil your fun. And bear in mind that because of its numbing effect, this herb has traditionally been used as a medicine for toothache, plus gum and throat complaints, in Asia, South America, and North Africa, via Saveur. That said, you might want to ingest the ingredient in a way that's a little measured at first, allowing you to try it out incrementally. 

For instance, as highlighted by Punch, Las Vegas mixologist Mariena Mercer Boarini has transformed dried Szechuan buttons into a more accessible cocktail rim powder. Known as Electrodust, the azure concoction creates the same seductively charged sensation on your lips. There is even a sparkling lollipop version for those who want more lingering tingles. So if you're going to conjure up an '80s futurism vibe from the comfort of your home, Electrodust is the way to go — don't forget the neon strip lights. But what kind of cocktail pairs well with this ingredient? Boarini suggests recipes centered around ginger, citrus, or agave. You could even try out her own showcase of the golden flower, The Verbena (via Liquor). If by now you're feeling ready to enter into buzz button territory at a bar near you, be warned that your drink might be a mini rollercoaster ride. But then again, it's worth it for a truly singular cocktail experience.