The Art of Cocktail Presentation: Garnishes

While it’s easy to forget when making drinks at home, a garnish is the finishing touch on a great cocktail. A garnish can add new flavors and aromatics as well as visual appeal—an Old Fashioned just isn’t the same without a cherry and orange slice, a Dirty Martini requires an olive or two, and a Margarita without a salted rim feels sacrilegious. But garnishes are also a chance to get creative with the look and taste of your drinks. From lime wheels to edible flowers and smoke, thoughtful garnishes take cocktails to new levels.

The Magic of Citrus Peel

A citrus peel or citrus twist is one of the most popular drink garnishes. A tried and true classic, it adds a pop of color and bright fragrance that tempers sweeter drinks and complements the herbaceous qualities of spirits like gin. Whether you prefer the striking look of a broad strip of orange or lemon peel or the delicate appeal of a thin spiral twist, make sure you twist the peel to express the citrus oils over the surface of your drink. Drape the peel over the rim of your cocktail glass or lay it along the edge to enhance the visual appeal.

Viski Professional Stainless Steel Citrus Peeler

Viski Professional Channel Knife with Walnut Wood Handle

Herbs and Flowers

Fresh herbs and edible flowers are a simple way to make drinks stand out. A sprig of rosemary can bring a savory, aromatic quality to a simple Gin & Tonic, and a single pansy floating on the surface of a Daiquiri instantly elevates the presentation. Flowering thyme and mint bring a wild, overgrown garden look to highballs and add delicate herbal scents to the drink. When using herbs, smack them gently against your hand to release the aromatic oils before garnishing your drink.

Salted or Sugared Rims

Rimming a cocktail glass with sugar or salt is a fun addition to a drink. The most common example of this is a Margarita, but the Salty Dog and Bloody Mary both have a salted rim, while the Brandy Crusta or Sidecar feature a sugared rim. Take this a step further and add unique flavors that complement your cocktail: infuse sugar with lime or lemon zest, add chili powder to salt for a spicy Margarita, or concoct your own blend of spices, herbs, or other seasonings. To rim a glass, moisten the rim with water or juice and dip it into a plate with a layer of sugar, salt,  or seasoning. Experiment with ingredients and flavor combinations to make something one-of-a-kind.

Fresh and Preserved Fruit

Lime wheels, dehydrated orange slices, or cherries skewered on a cocktail pick are just a few examples of how to incorporate fruit into your garnishes. From a cocktail cherry sitting at the bottom of a coup glass to a wedge of pineapple perched on the rim, fruit garnishes add texture and flavor to cocktails. Fruit can be combined with other garnishes to create an enticing ensemble of aromas and colors: think a cocktail pick with a blueberry and lemon peel or a slice of nectarine nestled in a bouquet of fresh mint. Cucumbers, chilis, cherry tomatoes, and other more savory ingredients are also a fantastic way to elevate a simple drink.

Viski Pacific Tiki Cocktail Picks in Copper Set of 4

A Hint of Smoke

Not quite a garnish, not quite an ingredient—smoke is growing in popularity as a cocktail component. While you can include liquid smoke as an ingredient when building a drink, sometimes a drink calls for a more subtle touch of smoke. Smoked cocktail kits are the perfect way to do this—whether you rinse the glass with smoke or infuse the cocktail itself, a slightly smoked flavor can enhance the flavor of cocktails like an Old Fashioned or a mezcal-based drink and create a dramatic presentation.   

Viski Alchemi Single Serve Smoked Cocktail Kit

Whether you’re new to mixing drinks or are an experienced mixologist, garnishes are a great way to express your creativity and practice the art of cocktail presentation. A dash of bitters on top of the foam of a Whiskey Sour, a spritz of absinthe from an atomizer—there are countless ways to layer complex notes in a cocktail. Next time you’re making a classic drink, try a unique garnish and see how it changes your drink experience.

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