The Cocktail Garnish: An Introduction

margarita lime garnish

Garnishes 101: Getting Started

Garnishes. The icing on the cake, the top hat, the visual descriptor. Garnishes are what transform a great drink into a beautiful work of art. If you’re here with us then you probably like cocktails and have undoubtedly seen your fair share of boozy flourish. This is meant as a Garnish 101 or Intro To, if you will. So, follow along because we have a few garnish ideas to get those creative juices flowing!

A few pointers before we get going:

  • Pith – never invited to the cocktail party. Always try to scrape or cut off as much of the white pith as possible when working with citrus fruits. The pith is bitter and will quickly oust you as the cocktail newbie.
  • Knife Safety – Always use a knife responsibly and with great care. Be sure your knife is sharpened and that your cutting surface is secure.

I'm New Here

The Fruit Wheel: This garnish is simple, easy, and always looks festive. To achieve this look cut a thin slice of the citrus of your choice (or really any fruit that pairs with your cocktail) laterally across to create a circle shape. Make one small cut on the edge so that the wheel can be placed on the lip of the glass.

The Peel Corkscrew: This one is maybe a little more challenging, but we still say it’s an easy, beginners garnish. As long as you feel comfortable with your knife skills, then give this one a go! Just as you might peel an apple with a paring knife, peel a thin long strip of peel from the citrus of your choice. Take the long strip and curl it up into a corkscrew shape. If you need help use a pen to wrap it around to get the desired look.

Cocktail Pick: The cocktail pick provides a versatile garnish option. Skewer the ingredients of the drink in fun arrangements to give the drinker a sense of what to expect. You can go simple with the classic olive, or step it up as much as you want to.

If you happen to be making a strawberry and jalapeno drink, we love this Strawberry Top Hat Garnish, inspired by Apartment Bartender.

Look at me go!

Citrus Paper Clip (We made that name up – seemed fitting): This one is simple to do, but will certainly surprise your guests. First start with the peel of a citrus, remove the pith, remove the fruit flesh. With a sharp knife cut the peel into a rectangle (or shape of your choice) then carefully make two slits in the middle of the rectangle into a V shape.

Slightly curve the peel before sliding the “clip” onto the rim of the glass.

Infused Salt Rim: We all know a margarita comes with a salt rim, but why not apply this idea to any number of drinks. We especially love to do sugar rims, adding the zest of whatever citrus went into our beverage. For this just mix the sugar or salt with a good amount of citrus zest. Give the mixture a little stir and it’s ready to be applied to the glass.

Stepping up our game

Scored Garnish: This one seems intimidating to the newbie home bartender but we promise with the right tools it’s easy.
First figure out how fancy you want to take things. Plan out your pattern and think about how you want to execute. Go simple with straight lines or intricate with swirls or images. We stuck to a crisscross pattern, simple but fun. We used both a zester tool and a fork to achieve different types of lines. This look can be done with or without the fruit flesh still attached – we have both shown here in pictures.

Start slow and sort of mark your path first. Then steadily apply a little more pressure until you achieve your desired result. Be careful not to scrape too hard as you might just cut the peel right in two!

Cocktail decoration and garnish are much like the drinks themselves – the combinations and opportunity for fun new ideas are almost endless. Cheers!

Tools of the trade: