The perfect cocktail garnish

Spruce up your spritz

When it comes to the perfect cocktail garnish, the devil’s in the details.

Story by Jenna Wiley

Nothing makes a good first impression like a beautifully crafted cocktail. A perfect way to add a little extra shine to your drink is with cocktail garnishes. Garnishes can add visual appeal, extra flavors and aromatics to enhance your cocktail drinking experience, and there’s one for every occasion. 


Starting with the must-haves…

Lemons: Typically lemons are used to garnish darker drinks such as whiskey sours and rum and cokes, but lemons also can pop up in clear drinks like martinis. The sour aspect cuts through most strong alcohol flavors and brings a nice acidity. Perfect for: Lemon Drop

Limes: Lime is the most popular cocktail garnish due to its versatility. Limes are most commonly used in margaritas, mojitos and lemon-lime soda mixes. Limes also are good to help cut some sweetness or blandness of your cocktail. Perfect for: The Bad Word

Oranges: An Old Fashioned is a timeless classic and is always paired with an orange peel. Orange peel is one of the most popular garnished for all types of drinks due to its bright color and powerful aromatic qualities. Perfect for: Old Fashioned

Cucumbers: Using cucumber as a cocktail garnish is perfect for those hot summer afternoons when you want something refreshing to sip on. Adding cucumber to a bubbly gin drink adds a light flavor to complement the harshness of the gin. Perfect for: Cucumber Collins

Pineapples: You don’t need to limit your pineapple garnishes to tropical frozen drinks. Pineapple’s stark sweetness and acidity is a great option to help cut the flavor of darker liquors. You also can try white rum if you want something more straightforward. Perfect for: Pineapple Rum Cocktail

Blueberries: Blueberries are another classic cocktail garnish due to their fruity flavor and sour sweetness. It’s better to lean towards clear liquor with blueberries to get the best out of your drinking experience. Perfect for: Blueberry Vodka Lemonade


The wonderous wild cards

Pickles: Want to take a trip on the pickle side? If olives or cocktail onions aren’t up your alley, pickles might be. Pickles offer the same saltiness and brine flavor that olives offer, so if salty is the direction you want your cocktail to go, give pickles a try. Perfect for: Dill Pickle Martini

Jalapeño: If sweet, sour or salty drinks aren’t for you, try spicy. Adding a jalapeño into a cocktail won’t make your precious drink become too hot to handle but rather add a subtle spice flavor and very refreshing flavor. Perfect for: Spicy Margarita

Lychee: Lychee is a mild and delicate fruit rarely used in popular cocktails. This fruit has a subtle sweetness that won’t overpower the flavor of your drink. Lychee also has an interesting sour bite and offers a unique drinking experience. Perfect for: Lychee Martini


Season’s Greetings

Rosemary: This woody and fragrant herb is popular during the holiday season. If you want some more powerful rosemary flavor, add in a homemade rosemary simple syrup. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try smoking the rosemary beforehand. Perfect for: Honey Bourbon Cocktail

Nutmeg: Like cinnamon, nutmeg can be used to garnish in multiple ways. Grate it and stir into your cocktail for a more powerful sip, or try rimming the glass with shaved nutmeg and simple syrup. Perfect for: Eggnog Martini

Cinnamon: Not only does the cinnamon stick garnish look nice, it also tastes amazing. The versatility of cinnamon in food transfers to drinks but is better suited for dark liquors to get the most enjoyment out of your drink. Perfect for: Apple pie cocktail

Cranberries: Nothing says the holidays like cranberries, both in appearance and taste. Cranberries lean away from sweetness and more to bitterness, but don’t let that scare you away. If you’re sipping on something sweet, this is the garnish to reach for. Perfect for: Holiday Cranberry Mojito

Roasted marshmallows: Feeling nostalgic and craving s’mores? Try it in cocktail form. This cocktail garnish is definitely for those who have a sweet tooth they need to satisfy, but you won’t regret it. Perfect for: S’mores Martini


Run-of-the-mill

Olives: Steer clear of fruity or frozen drinks with the garnish. Olives are best used in mostly gin or vodka martinis. The strong flavor of the olive is a complementary salty and briny flavor to the sometimes overpowering flavor of clear liquor. Perfect for: Dirty Martini

Maraschino cherries: Cherries are a fun and easy way to add some color and sweetness to your drinks. Most tropical drinks use maraschino cherries as a garnish but you can add them to other drinks as well, like whiskey mixes or anything that uses sour mix. Perfect for: Tequila sunrise

Salt: In addition to pairing great with limes and lemons, salt brings a unique taste and rounds out a majority of cocktail experiences. The salinity brightens the sweet and sour notes and makes a drink taste balanced. Perfect for: Margarita

Celery: Chances are if you’ve ever had a Bloody Mary, it has been garnished with a celery stalk, but it isn’t just there for show. Celery is bitter and aromatic so it’s meant to be eaten while you’re sipping all that tomato juice to help clear your palate. Perfect for: Bloody Mary

Cocktail onions: Cocktail onions are a unique and rare garnish, only used on certain light liquors as a more salty and briny alternative to the popular cocktail olive. Cocktail onions are a savory addition to a cocktail, so if you favor sugary drinks this isn’t the garnish for you. Perfect for: Gibson Martini

Mint: Mint is by far the most popular herb to use as a cocktail garnish because it adds a unique and powerful freshness to any drink. There are hundreds of different spices of mint, so make sure you’re picking the right kind during your next grocery store trip. Perfect for: Cuban Mojitos

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