Garnishing 101

Garnishes are often seen as the finishing touch of a cocktail, a must have for any proper drink. However, they are also sometimes seen as a waste of time and irrelevant. How can this be? Who is right? What place does the garnish hold in modern day mixology? And furthermore, how did we become so divided on such a serious and impactful topic like this?

Well, good news loyal reader! We won’t leave you hanging on this topic any longer. We may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems (despite what we may think after a few cocktails), but we can shed some light on this topic.


The short answer is yes…and no. Before you throw your hands up in defeat, let us explain. Does adding a garnish to your cocktail bring another layer of complexity, aroma, flavour and visual appeal to the experience? Yes, of course it does BUT, does this matter? Well that part is up to the individual. As with most things, cocktails are meant to be enjoyed based on your personal preference which means whether a garnish is required is completely up to the drinker of that cocktail.


Garnishing a cocktail isn’t like doing math (thankfully) which means there is no one correct answer. Do some garnishes work best with certain drinks? Of course, but that doesn’t make anything right or wrong. There are traditional garnishes that are time tested, like fresh fruit (lime, lemon, orange or cherry), olives, onions or umbrellas. There are also more and more creative garnishes every day, like having a Caesar in a sports bar garnished with a slider and a chicken wing. Which, if we’re all being honest, is an innovation almost on par with the first airplane.


If you are looking to stock your home bar with garnishes, or prepare a few for your next kitchen party, here are some quick tips to keep you on track:

  • Prepare in advance to save time and enjoy your party – pre-slice those garnishes before guests arrive.
  • Keep things fresh – once you pre-slice, throw the garnishes in containers or jars to keep them as fresh as possible.
  • Put your best fruit forward – if you wouldn’t serve it on a plate don’t serve it on a glass.
  • Think ahead – plan for a few cocktails you expect to make and prepare the garnishes for those specific drinks.
  • Have fun with it! This isn’t open heart surgery, so the stakes are nice and low. Enjoy yourself and get creative.