Just like cake needs icing and a roast requires gravy, a good cocktail deserves to be garnished.

More than simply a decorative flourish, a garnish can make all the difference to a cocktail, adding another dimension of colour, texture, aroma and flavour to your drink. When mixing drinks at home we generally don’t bother with the humble garnish, but as we are about to show you, they are surprisingly easy to create and are guaranteed to seriously impress your guests. After all, what is a Martini without an olive or a Bloody Mary without celery?


A slice of fruit it one of the easiest ways to add a burst of colour and flavour to your drink, using something you probably already have in the kitchen. Try a simple half slice of orange or grapefruit, strawberry or pineapple slid onto the rim of the glass.

Citrus peel is another classic garnish that not only looks very impressive but the citrus oil released by the peel also helps to add aroma and flavour. To create a peel twist, use a sharp knife to slice off a piece of peel, being careful not to cut too deeply into the bitter white pith. Next, use the knife to neaten up the the slice into a uniform rectangle and gently but firmly twist the peel into a spiral. Run the coloured side of the peel around the rim of your glass, and then place it in your drink.

Olives and Onions

A staple in every bar, olives, pickles and cocktail onions add a fabulous savoury quality to a drink. Spanish and Grecian olives, and Pearl Onions are ideal garnishes for robust cocktails such as the Martini, Gibson, Rob Roy or Manhattan. Making your own pickled onions is surprisingly easy – simple cook the onions briefly in salted water, return to room temperature and then store them in a jar with the brine. If you can’t get your hands on fresh onions, frozen onions are a great alternative and will help to keep your drink cold!

Herbs and Flowers

Give your cocktail a floral flourish with varieties such as lavender, violet, elderflower, orchid or rose. Not only will they look beautiful, but they can also impart a delightful fragrance and flavour.

The natural oils in herbs such as mint, basil, and rosemary add a fresh burst of flavour to popular drinks including mojitos, juleps and other fruity summer cocktails. A sneaky bartender trick is to give mint a little smack between the hands to release aromas before adding it to a drink.

Sweet stuff

Creamy liquors such as Frangelico, Baileys and Kahlua demand a sweet garnish to match. Decorate cocktails with grated chocolate, drizzles of caramel and lashings of whipped cream. Small treats like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and toasted marshmallows look great on the side of glasses, while a cinnamon stick if perfect for stirring a hot buttered rum.

Finishing Touch

For a super simple garnish with maximum impact, keep a pack of tooth picks in your cocktail kit and load them up with classic combos such as mixed berries, lollies and fruit, or cheese and pickles.

Also, never underestimate the value of kitsch cocktail umbrellas or novelty straws. While not always appropriate for a suave cocktail party, they are oh so fun and always get a good reception at casual get togethers.