Great cocktail garnishes can really level up your cocktail game, but inspiration is hard to come by. The classics, like citrus wheels or a lemon twist, are great, but maybe it’s time to add some new garnish ideas for cocktails into your repertoire.
1. Get Fancy with a Twist
Citrus peel garnishes are a classic, but you don’t have to stick to the standard orange or lemon peel. Add a nice, long twisty strip of grapefruit peel or bergamot orange if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where they’re sold locally.
When you add a twist to a cocktail, it releases citrus oils into the drink, enhancing the flavor. The easiest way to get the best twist is to use a sharp knife. Cut a long strip of the outer peel away from the fleshy part of the fruit.
You can also use a citrus peeler to make it easy on yourself. We like this one BergHOFF Neo because it’s a peeler and citrus zest tool in one.
2. Flaming Twist
The flaming twist is a showstopper cocktail garnish that makes for a memorable presentation in a glass of warmed cognac or a chilled drink such as a cosmopolitan. To make a flaming twist, take a section of citrus peel, such as an orange peel. You want a nice thick piece for two reasons.
First, you want a piece large enough to hold onto without burning your fingers. Second, the goal is for the flame to release the juices over your drink, and a large citrus twist or peel works best for this.
Hold the citrus twist a few inches above the drink and carefully touch a lit match to the peel. You’ll see a little spark that releases the oils, and then the flame should die out. Drop the peel into the drink and enjoy.
3. Citrus Rose
A citrus rose is a cocktail garnish idea that makes a bold statement. Making a citrus rose isn’t much more complicated than other garnishes with citrus peels, but they work best with larger citrus fruit, such as a large orange.
Using a sharp knife or peeler, cut a long, wide slice of peel from all the way around the orange. Then, roll the twist up to resemble a rose. You’ll need a sturdy cocktail stick to pierce the center to keep the rose together.
These stainless steel cocktail picks look nice and do the trick.
4. Citrus Butterfly
Add a citrus butterfly to your spring or summertime cocktails for a fun touch. You need a single wedge of citrus to make a butterfly, and either an orange, lemon, or lime wedge will work. This tutorial from Gala in the Kitchen shows how easy these little cuties are to make.
5. Citrus Heart
With a little creativity, you can make all sorts of interesting cocktail garnishes using citrus fruit. The citrus heart is perfect for Valentine’s Day cocktails, anniversaries, and intimate wedding parties – plus, it’s super easy.
To make a citrus heart, simply take a long, thin slice of orange peel (or other varieties of citrus twists). Slice it about three-quarters of the way down the center.
Take the top pieces and turn them inward toward each other, forming a heart. Use a cocktail pick to pierce the heart through the center, holding the two ends together.
6. Creative Wheels
Maybe you’ve cut a pile of lime or orange slices for your cocktail party, but you feel they look a little blah. It’s super easy to jazz them up a little.
Just take the tip of a knife and cut little notches or designs around the edge of the orange or lime wheel. You can make flowers or get more detailed by etching delicate designs around the edge.
7. Craft Cocktail Cherries
So, there really isn’t anything new or exciting about using cherries in your drink, but you can certainly level up the quality of the cherry you’re using and make a huge impact on the taste and presentation.
One of the best cocktail cherries is the Original Luxardo Cherries. These were the first cocktail cherries, and they have 4.9 stars out of well over 5,000 reviews.
We all know everyone’s a critic, so when so many people have something positive to say about cocktail cherries, you know they have to be good!
8. Make Your Own Brandied Cherries
A boozy cherry garnish is a pleasant addition to any cocktail. Plus, they’re so easy to make that you don’t need any special mixologist magic to make them. You can use any type of liquor, but rich, warm liquor like brandy works best.
Add spices like star anise, clove, or cinnamon for a spiced version. Once they’re ready to use, you can also add a little of the homemade cherry syrup from the jar to sweeten up any drink. We like this brandied cherries recipe from Liqour.com.
Herbs & Edible Flowers
9. Grow a Cocktail Garden
A fresh herb garnish is a refreshing touch to a range of cocktails. Think along the lines of fresh mint in a mojito, a sprig of rosemary in a cranberry martini, or basil in a gin gimlet.
Fresh herbs always win out over dried ones when it comes to cocktail garnishes, so why not grow a little herb garden specifically for your cocktail parties?
You can prune your garden when you’re ready to play bartender, or you can set little garden pots out, different types of fresh herbs in each one, so that your guests can choose their own.
10. Fresh Greenery for Tropical Drinks
If there’s a place to go over the top with garnishes, it’s definitely in a tropical drink! It’s common to garnish a tropical drink with a pineapple wedge or orange slice, which is fine. However, you can amp up the presentation with a showstopper garnish like pineapple fronds.
Simply take about three green fronds from a fresh pineapple, fan them out, and place them in the glass. Do this after the glass is already full, or wedge the fronds behind some well-packed ice cubes to keep them in place.
11. Edible Flowers
Edible flowers are gorgeous additions to certain cocktails, especially something that’s generally no-frills, like a martini. They also look really nice in cocktails with a bit of soft pink, purple, or reddish hue. For instance, a cocktail with creme de Violette.
Not all flowers are edible, but some safe options include rose petals, lavender, honeysuckle, and violet. If you don’t have fresh rose petals hanging around, dried flowers work nicely, too. Just make sure that they’re food-grade.
12. Herbal Ice Cubes
Herbed ice cubes are a simple garnish, but when done right, they can add striking visual appeal to a mixed drink.
The idea here is to use an extra large ice cube mold and then freeze fresh garnishes, like mint leaves, basil, wood sorrel, dried flowers, or even fresh fruit, into the ice.
These novelty ice cubes are large enough to add a striking visual appearance to cocktails in a wide-mouth cocktail glass.
13. Make It a Trio
You’ve probably been served a drink with a skewer, lined with three cocktail onions or olives. While these classics have their place, maybe it’s time to have a little fun with the standard martini cocktail garnish. Instead of three of a kind, add in some variety with a trio of savory nibbles.
The trio of a cocktail onion, stuffed olive, and something like a clove of pickled garlic or a bright red cherry tomato is a sophisticated and out-of-the-ordinary touch.
Cucumber ribbons add a nice, clean, and crisp element to your cocktail presentation – not to mention that the lightness is often a welcome change from overly sweet or pungent garnishes.
To make a cucumber ribbon, take a vegetable peeler and run it all the way down the cucumber. You want to first remove a layer of skin from one side of the cucumber.
Next, create another cucumber slice using the vegetable peeler. When you’re done, you should have a thin strip of cucumber with a delicate edge of darker green skin on each side.
Create an accordion with the cucumber ribbon and use a cocktail skewer to keep it in place. Try this with a lightly salted rim on your next tequila cocktail.
15. Pickled Vegetables
The next time you serve a bloody mary, skip the standard dill pickle and celery salt and add a little extra tang to your drink’s flavors with a skewer of pickled vegetables instead. There are so many different ways you can go with pickled vegetables.
Try some pickled garlic along with olive juice in a dirty martini. Add pickled asparagus and brussels sprouts to a bloody mary or some pickled ghost peppers in an unassuming martini. You can try pickling your veggies using fresh ingredients and a brine. If you’d rather not go through the fuss, a pickled vegetable variety set will save time. This set also makes a great gift.
16. Novelty Salts
Nothing compliments a good margarita, Paloma, or salty dog like a nice salted rim around the glass. The standard operating procedure is to line the rim of a glass with lime juice and then dip it into Kosher salt, but we like to kick it up a notch with flavored and novelty salts.
Smoked salt is fun for a bloody mary, and if you want a little spice, salt that has chili powder mixed in will add some kick. You can get salts that are infused with rosemary and lime or blended with bacon! The sky’s the limit.
Dried Fruit Garnishes
17. Use Dried Fruits Instead of Fresh
Fresh fruit is classic, but dried fruits are a huge cocktail garnish trend at the moment. They look beautiful and offer a rustic vibe to your cocktail.
Imagine a mulled wine or warm spiked cider that has been garnished with cinnamon sticks and a slice of dehydrated orange. Add a star anise pod, and it becomes picture-perfect. A dehydrated pineapple slice looks almost like a flower sitting on a tropical drink, and it becomes an even more fun garnish if you add something like a little cocktail umbrella.
Dehydrating your own fresh fruit can be time-consuming, but there are some really nice options for readily available dehydrated fruits on the market.
18. Candied Fruit
Candied fruit is a sweet treat that’s fun to add to your drinks as a cocktail garnish. Candied ginger is perfect in a ginger martini or ginger buck with a sprig of rosemary, while candied citrus is ideal for cooler weather drinks and any cocktail that offers the flavors of tart cranberry to balance out the sweetness.
19. Over-the-Top Sugar Rims
A sugar rim is the perfect cocktail garnish for a tart or sweet drink, but plain granulated sugar gets a little boring after a while. Fortunately, that boredom doesn’t have to last long because there are some great options for flavored and colorful sugar rims.
Rim your cocktail glass in a little citrus juice, then dip it into a sugar mix that’s infused with citrus flavors or a little bit of heat. Trust us, the finished drink is going to be exponentially better than it would have been with a plain sugar rim.
20. A World of Chocolate
Chocolate, with its inherent sweetness and richness, compliments so many drinks and spirits – from a chocolate martini to a bourbon cocktail. There are so many ways to take advantage of chocolate as a cocktail garnish that there’s no reason not to experiment and have fun with it.
Try the contrast of a rich chocolate rim with the crisp freshness of little melon wedges, or try a dark chocolate rim on a manhattan made with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. Add a piece of chocolate to the rim of a cocktail that’s been garnished with ground cinnamon or a cinnamon stick – gorgeous and tasty.
- With a little imagination, there are endless cocktail garnish ideas to explore
- Be bold and try new flavors for your garnishes – use pickled garlic instead of pearl onions.
- Consider the presentation and taste of your cocktails before deciding on a garnish.
- Spend a little more for good quality garnishes – the taste really does make a difference.