October 06, 2022 by Sonja Edridge
If you’re savvy on social media, you’ll be aware of the crazy and creative cocktail garnish trend that’s red-hot right now. Get involved and show off your cocktail skills with our guide to unique garnishes for cocktails. Let the cocktail renaissance begin!
1. Skewers and cocktail picks
Skewers and cocktail picks are a must-have home bar essential when you want to add a creative cocktail garnish. Find them in a variety of sizes and materials, like bamboo, wood, plastic and metal. A 4-to-6-inch size skewer will suit most creative cocktail garnishes while shorter pick can rest on the edge of your glass for a delicate garnish. Get creative and try these skewer ideas:
- Grape hearts: Cut a grape diagonally across the middle and twist the pieces around so both long edges meet to shape a heart and skewer them.
- Lace cucumber ribbons onto a pick or skewer for a cool refreshing garnish
- Candied maraschino cherries: Enjoy this burst of sweetness in cocktails such as the French Manhattan
2. Mini clothespin
Cute mini clothespins are the ideal tool to attach flowers and fun drink garnishes. You’ll find them in bulk packs at craft stores, some with pretty additions and in all colors but the plain ones are just perfect. Using a little peg is a great way to attach dehydrated discs of orange or large flowers onto the side (or tumbling out) of your cocktail glass. Just about anything that can’t be skewered. They are so darn cute!
3. Glow up the ice cubes
Another creative cocktail garnish essential is the common ice cube. You can have so much fun with them:
- Pretty ice cubes
Fill your ice cubes trays with herbs or flowers like rosemary, rose petals, lavender or mint or chopped fruit. When the ice cubes melt, they’ll blend into your cocktail and still be beautifully garnished! For more pizazz, add food coloring.
- Large ice cubes
Large ice cubes are so on trend right now! Not only are they functional (they dilute your cocktail less), they look so fancy and are such a grand gesture! A tasty spirit forward cocktail like a Negroni benefits from a large ice cube. It offers slow ice dilution and keeps your drink chilled longer. Pick large square or sphere silicone molds, keep them plain or add some fun extras if you like.
- Butterfly pea flower ice cubes
For a perfectly nifty magic trick, steep ¾ of a cup of butterfly pea flowers in 4 cups of warm water for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the (cooled) blue liquid to remove the buds, pour this liquid into funky ice cube molds and freeze. Add these cubes to drinks with a little acid, like lemon or lime juice and watch it to turn your drink a violet purple! Such fun!
4. Fresh herbs, fronds & leaves for all the funk
With little effort, you can turn a cocktail into a showstopper with a cluster of rosemary, mint or thyme. It adds all the drama with a touch of color. Larger clusters of herbs can make a statement, but if you’re in a delicate mood, perhaps a small sprig of thyme will suffice. Pineapple fronds are another option to add colorful, fun drink garnishes. You’ll typically find them bursting out of a Jungle Bird or tiki cocktails, but this shouldn’t stop you adding to any pineapple cocktail.
5. Edible flowers
Pretty edible flowers turn the average cocktail into a blooming good cocktail. They bring a bonus of floral aromas and texture when you use them fresh, dried or candied. The flower you pick really depends on your glass size and type of drink you want to beautify. Dried flowers like lavender or rose and chamomile are an easy pretty and often found in the baking aisle at the store. For the less obvious, try clusters of elderflower or honeysuckle for a showstopper cocktail. They’re incredibly fragrant and pretty, as are cherry blossoms. Violets (and violas) and pansies are age-old classics. Go big with a hibiscus or peony, or just pick off a few petals and click them onto your glass with a mini clothespin. Go wild, flowers are such cool cocktail garnishes!
6. Cocktail glass rims
Adding a textured rim can give your cocktail all the sass, delivering bonus color and flavor. Typically, cocktail rims use a wedge of lemon or lime to moisten the rim of the glass before dipping into sugar or salt. Keep it classic with a little zest of lemon or lime into the salt sugar mix as you would with a Marg… Or mix a little brown sugar and cinnamon or add mixed spice for Christmassy vibes. Other fun options include:
- Nuts, popcorn and candy: These are a bit weightier and they’ll need something thicker like golden syrup to adhere too. Remember to chop or crush the candy (or nuts) a little, to help them stick on a little easier. You may also want to try our crushed popcorn rim of our Candy Corn Martini.
- Savory: Add a savory vibe with sesame, poppy or nigella seeds.
- Extra sweet: For creamy, coffee or chocolate cocktails, add a brush of toffee or caramel to stick on toasted coconut, pistachios or even chocolate chips for a little wow factor.
- Get spicy: Make a Tajín Rim with a little chili and lime
7. Fruit and veg wedges, discs and ribbons
Sometimes the easiest garnishes bring the most sophistication:
- Fruit: Classic fruit garnishes include wedges of lemons, limes and berries but you can have fun with other options. If you’re familiar with the famed Pornstar Martini, you’ll know a slice of fresh passion fruit brings all the glam. A wedge of pineapple is the essential finish to a Piña Colada. Adding a wedge of fruit, like lime or strawberry, when you need a pop of color can make or break the visual appeal of your cocktail, as well as bring some extra flavor. There’s no real rules here, TBH! Just have fun with what you’ve got
- Veg: Ribbons of cucumber are a refreshing and colorful garnish, and a great match for gin cocktails. Mexican cocktails are a good example where you can mix up unique cocktail garnishes, such as skewers of chili. No Dirty Martini would be complete without an olive garnish.
- Slinky: Learn how to make a cucumber slinky in our Cucumber Martini!
9. Let’s twist again… with citrus peel
The peel of citrus fruits is full of aromatic oils, which you can extract when you squeeze the peel—so make sure you do this over your cocktail to catch the tang. To make a citrus twist, take a vegetable peeler and gently glide along the surface lemon or orange for a strip of peel (try to avoid the bitter white pith). Trim it to keep it neat, roll up thinner strips and coil it around a wooden spoon. This shapes it to easily twirl and hook over the edge in the glass. You can also roll it up and thread onto a little wooden skewer.
To make a twist that will secure on the edge of your glass; cut a rectangular piece of peel. Cut the top at an angle to the left and the bottom to the right. In the center, make a 1 inch cut which will fit over the edge of the glass. Wrap your peel around a wooden spoon for shape for a minute, then place it on the edge of the glass, using the split to anchor the twist.
10. Carved citrus peel
Go crazy and carve patterns into your citrus peel. Carving citrus peels is probably the most creative we’ll ask you to get. Let the inspiration run wild when you do a deep dive into creative cocktail garnishes on socials. Most of the clever creations are actually quite simple to achieve. You may just need a practice run or two to perfect. Simple wins would be rolling up a strip of peel into a rosette. Or carve a leaf shape, removing a few little nodes for a more nuanced effect.
For a citrus carved fan, trim a 3 inch long piece of peel about 1 inch wide (like you would a twist, above). Cut the top end at an angle and the base, straight across. Make 5 thin cuts into the angled end, a third into the strip. If you want it to anchor on the glass, make a cut in the center, like the twist above or you can sit it in the base of your glass to burst out of the cocktail. Perfect fodder for a Jungle Bird or White Lady.
11. Citrus wheels and slices
There is such beauty in the simplicity of a citrus wheel! Cut your slice, not too thick or too thin, about ½ inch for them to stand firmly. Make a small cut through the peel to allow it to sit on the rim of your glass. If you want to be fancy, take a slice of orange, lemon or lime, cut a slit into the center. Then roll it into itself creating a flower shape, skewer it and clip it to the side of your glass with a little mini clothespin.
For a simple sphere effect, cut two different sized slices of orange, remove the flesh to leave you with two rings, fit them inside each other and thread onto a long skewer to balance over your cocktail.
12. Flaming lime shell
If you are looking more drama for your home bar, try flaming a lime shell. It’s exactly what you think. In a Zombie Cocktail, after you’ve squeezed half a lime into your drink, gently place the lime shell on top. Allow to settle and float. Douse a sugar cube with high proof rum and drop it into the center of the lime. Light it up and watch eyebrows rise. Probably best to extinguish the flames before taking a sip though! Find out how to add more sparkle in your cocktails.
13. Cocktail cherries
Cocktail cherries are the classic, if not one of the best cocktail garnishes. They’ve been popular in the cocktail renaissance of the 19th century. Maraschino cherries are uber sweet, bright electric red and perfect in a John Collins. Luxardo cherries offer a touch of class, bathed in brandy and sugar for unctuous delight. Sweet and tart cherries spiked on a skewer offer the essential burst of nutty Amaretto flavor to balance out a front-loaded Manhattan.
14. Chocolate art
Chocolate is another way to raise your game! Add chocolate shavings or melt a little chocolate in the microwave. Spoon a little melted chocolate on a non-stick baking sheet, get creative with swirls or shapes. Place in the fridge to firm up and gently remove with a knife from the baking sheet to top your Espresso Martini or Brandy Alexander.
15. Dehydrated fruits
Dehydrated fruits give a spectacular bold pop of colour, texture and flavour to any cocktail. If you invest in a few, they will last for months, stored in airtight containers. Regular finds will be lemon, lime and pineapple but try rhubarb if you come across some. Dehydrated berries are easy to come by, try crushing them over foamy topped cocktails like a Clover Club or a Golden Dream for gorgeous appeal. You can make your own by placing your fruit slices in a low temperature oven for a few hours.
16. Dry ice and smoked cocktails
Using dry ice to bring some smoky theatre effects to your cocktail isn’t just one for the pros anymore. Using dry ice may seem daunting but we’ve got all the info you need on how to use dry ice in cocktails. It’s an awesome skill to elevate your home bar skills and really impress your guests! Simply allow a 1-inch piece of dry ice to sink to the bottom of your glass for a flutter of entertainment.
Looking for smoky infusions? You’re so trendy! Find out how to smoke your cocktail with our easy guide.
Now off you glow and have fun!