When it comes to cocktails, the garnish is like the cherry on top of a sundae – it adds that extra flair and flavor that takes your drink to the next level. Whether you’re hosting a party or just want to elevate your at-home happy hour, there are endless options for cocktail garnishes that can make your drinks look and taste amazing.
From classic citrus twists to fresh herbs and edible flowers, the world of cocktail garnishes is full of creativity and fun. You can also get playful with unique garnishes like flavored salts, candy skewers, or even mini umbrellas for a tropical touch. So, next time you mix up a cocktail, don’t forget to think about the perfect garnish to complement your drink and impress your guests.
Citrus Peel Twist
A citrus peel twist garnish adds a bright citrus aroma and flavor to any cocktail. It is best suited for drinks that benefit from a zesty kick, such as a gin and tonic or a margarita. On top of that, I love that it is easy to make: use a peeler to create a thin strip of citrus peel and twist it over the cocktail.
I have an irredeemable sweet tooth, which means that chocolate rim is the perfect garnish–as it is for anyone who likes a splash of sweetness with their cocktails. A chocolate rim adds a decadent touch to any cocktail, but it is a great choice for cocktails that already lean on sweet flavors, like chocolate martinis or creamy Baileys-based drinks. To apply a chocolate rim, melt some chocolate, dip the rim of your glass, and let it harden before pouring in your drink.
For a more autumnal garnish, try the apple fan. The crisp and juicy apple slices complement the warm spices in your drink, while the fan shape adds an elegant filigree to even the simplest cocktail. I find it delightful to serve with apple cider-based cocktails or dark rum drinks. Making an apple fan couldn’t be easier: slice an apple and arrange the pieces in a fan shape around the rim of the glass.
Like the apple fan, the cinnamon stick is an excellent garnish for warm and cozy cocktails. Even better, cinnamon sticks can add an extra burst of flavor themselves, especially in winter warmers like a hot toddy or mulled wine. Besides infusing a touch of cinnamon sweetness, the stick imprints an unforgettable warmth into your memory. Is the only thing better? It’s simple. Just add a cinnamon stick to your drink and you are done!
A cucumber slice garnish adds everything you need–crispness, color, and maybe even healthiness! I like cucumber garnishes in refreshing, crisp cocktails, like a gin rickey, a gin-and-tonic, or a cucumber martini. In the case of gin beverages, the cucumber’s crisp, refreshing taste complements the booze’s botanical flavors and adds a much-needed coolness. To make cucumber slices, just…well, slice a cucumber. Make the slices especially thin if you’d like the flavors to infuse into the drink quickly.
Our next garnish is an icon of the mixological world and one of my favorite bar snacks: olives. Olives are the classic garnish for a martini, but I love to use them in other cocktails, like the more complex dirty martini or the brunch-perfect Bloody Mary. Their salty, briny flavor and smooth texture add fascinating flavors to any drink, pairing well with sharp alcohols like vodka. The easiest way to garnish with an olive is to spear it with a toothpick and dip it into the liquor. You might also suspend it over the glass.
The other titan of the cocktail world is the Maraschino cherry. These sweet snacks are extra-sweet cherries preserved in a syrupy suspension. These lovely little morsels work well in whiskey sours or Mai Tais, but there is no greater marriage in mixology than the Maraschino cherry and the Manhattan. Besides adding a sweet taste, Maraschinos add a pop of color to the drink. To make them, spear a cherry and dip it into your liquor of choice.
Edible flowers are a hot commodity in the cocktail world. These beautiful, delicate garnishes enhance any cocktail that draws on floral flavors, from a lavender gin fizz to a hibiscus margarita. Be warned, though: though these flowers are edible, their strong taste may be more than you’ve expected. To prepare this garnish, all you need to do is place a flower on top of your drink.
Orange peels are another iconic cocktail garnish. They add a citrusy, acidic, slightly bitter flavor to cocktails, not to mention a vivacious aroma, to your drink. Orange peels pair well with a wide variety of cocktails. It works especially well in brown liquor cocktails like scotch and whiskey. My personal favorites are the old-fashioned and the sidecar. Orange peels are easy to make. Use a peeler to cut away a thin strip of orange peel, then either twist it into your cocktail or drop it directly into the beverage.
Love fruit flavors but want to expand beyond lemon and orange? Try pineapple slices. Pineapple garnishes bring juicy, powerful flavors that work well in many cocktails. They add a sweet and tangy flavor to drinks, and even more, they bring a splash of golden color. The easiest way to use pineapple is to add a thin slice to a piña colada or a tropical rum cocktail. However, you could also get a little crazy and add it to an Old Fashioned.
Mint leaves bring everything you need from a garnish: they’re refreshing, aromatic, and downright delicious. Mint is a key ingredient in mojitos and mint juleps, largely because mint’s light, crisp flavor brings out the complexity of white rum and bourbon. To add a mint garnish, just wash a mint leaf and top your drink with it.
The final garnish on our list is dehydrated fruit. These garnishes are as versatile as they are delicious, bringing both a sweet chewiness and a light fruity flavor to any cocktail. I like them in sangria and whiskey sours, but they’re also a good way to experiment with Manhattans.