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How to Garnish Cocktails: Adding Artistic Flair to Drinks

Cocktail garnishing can be pretty simple, but how do you take it to the next level? If you’ve ever felt like you wanted to know more about how to garnish cocktails artfully, you’ve come to the right place.

Pearl Diver cocktail garnished with an edible orchid

Adding a visually appealing garnish to your cocktails can take them to the next level. We’ll cover the importance of garnishing, the various garnishing techniques, and provide you with some creative and easy-to-follow garnishing ideas.

The Purpose of Cocktail Garnishing

Cocktail garnishes serve a dual purpose. They enhance the visual appeal of the drink and can also complement the flavors and aromas of the cocktail.

Visual Appeal: A beautifully garnished cocktail not only looks great but also sets the mood for the drinking experience. It adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any drink.

Aromatics: Certain garnishes, like citrus peels or fresh herbs, release aromatic oils when muddled or expressed. These add enticing scents.

Flavor Enhancement: Garnishes can add a burst of flavor to the drink, balancing or enhancing the existing flavors. From a hint of citrus to a touch of spice, the right garnish can take the cocktail to new heights.

Essential Tools for Cocktail Garnishing

You’ll need a few essential tools for garnishing your cocktails:

  • Paring Knife: A sharp paring knife is essential for precise and intricate cuts on garnishes like citrus twists or fruit wedges.
  • Channel Knife: This unique tool creates beautiful garnishes by cutting long, spiraling strips of citrus peel. Perfect for adding a touch of elegance to your drink.
  • Peeler: A vegetable peeler is handy for creating wide strips of citrus peel or cucumber ribbons for garnishing.
  • Skewers: Reusable decorative skewers add a beautiful, sophisticated touch to any drink.
  • Bar Spoon: A long-handled bar spoon is useful for stirring and layering garnishes like maraschino cherries or olives in your cocktails.
  • Muddler: If you plan to use herbs or fruits in your garnishes, a muddler will help release their essential oils and flavors.

Cocktail garnishing is an art that allows you to express your creativity and elevate your drinking experience. Remember, garnishes should not only look appealing but also complement the flavors and aromas of the cocktail.

Experiment with different techniques, explore unique garnishing ideas, and most importantly, have fun while creating visually stunning and delicious cocktails. 

Cocktail Garnish Ideas

Now that you have the necessary tools, let’s explore some common techniques for garnishing your cocktails:

Cocktail Cherries

Cherries go with so many drinks. But instead of using the bright red syrup soaked ones from the grocery store, level up with Luxardo maraschino cherries, which look and taste much better.

Citrus Twists / Citrus Peels

Citrus twists add a burst of essential oils and bright flavors to your drink. Using a paring knife, carefully cut a thin strip of peel, avoiding the white pith.

Express the oils over the cocktail by gently twisting and bending the peel, then drop it into the drink.


Many cocktails, like the Martini, call for olives as a garnish. You can buy the regular green ones at the grocery store or you can buy all kinds of others with different flavorings. 

Stick to green olives, however.

Cocktail Onions

You can buy these delicious little pickled onions from the grocery store, and they add a wonderful flavor to cocktails like the Gibson.

Fruit Wedges

Slice fruits like lemons, limes, or oranges into small wedges and use them to garnish the rim of the glass. This technique works well for cocktails like margaritas or mojitos.


Skewers are one of the easiest ways to create a very sophisticated garnish, especially if you use decorative skewers.

This method is a versatile and creative way to garnish your cocktails. Thread fruits, olives, or even edible flowers onto toothpicks or cocktail picks and place them on the rim or inside the glass.

Fresh Herb Garnishes

Fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, or basil not only add a pop of color but also infuse the cocktail with their delightful aromas. Gently slap the herb sprig between your hands to release the oils and place it in the drink.

Candied Fruit

Dip small fruit pieces, such as cherries or orange slices, into simple syrup and let them dry. These sweet and visually appealing garnishes are perfect for adding a touch of elegance to cocktails like Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour.

Flaming Citrus

Cut a slit into a citrus peel and carefully light it on fire. Extinguish the flame by squeezing the peel over the cocktail, releasing aromatic oils and infusing the drink with a smoky essence.

Edible Flowers

Delicate and colorful edible flowers, like violets or pansies, can be used to garnish cocktails. Gently float them on the drink’s surface or place them on the rim.

Edible flowers are appropriate for drinks with any kind of herbal or flower notes. Honestly, because they’re beautiful, you can put them on just about any drink.

Sugar Rims

Create a sugared rim by dipping the glass into simple syrup or citrus juice and then into colored sugar or salt. This technique adds a sweet or savory touch to your cocktails and works well with Margaritas or Daiquiris.

Related: How to Rim a Cocktail Glass

Ice Cube Surprises

Freeze small fruits, herbs, or edible flowers into ice cubes and use them to garnish your cocktails. As the ice melts, it releases the garnish, adding visual appeal and subtle flavors to the drink.