Mixed drink garnish guide

Confused about garnishes for cocktails? Learn which ones are best for these popular mixed drinks.

What is a Garnish?

Garnishes are used to decorate a mixed drink to make it more visually appealing. They are usually edible and should complements the drink, but not overpower it. For example, a sweet tropical drink might be garnished with a pineapple spear, maraschino cherry, and a parasol. Just about any fruit or vegetable can be used as a garnish, but many mixed drinks have a tradition of using specific garnishes.

The most common garnishes for mixed drinks are maraschino cherries, and lemon, lime, orange slices or wedges. Other popular garnishes include lemon, lime, or orange peel twists, pineapple spears, mint leaves or sprigs, green olives, sweet and sour cocktail onions, celery stalks, cucumber peels or slices, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, chocolate shavings, and swizzle sticks.

General Rules for Garnishes

1. Classic mixed drinks and tropical drinks are typically garnished with fruits such as pineapples, kiwis, kumquats, oranges, lemons, lime, strawberries, melons, and maraschino cherries. Sugar or salt around the rim of the glass decorates some mixed drinks.

2. Mixed drinks that are not sweet (savory) often use vegetables such as celery, cucumber, cocktail onions, olives, or mint as garnishes.

3. Garnishes for mixed drinks using cream, butter or eggs are usually spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or crystallized ginger.

4. Taller, usually tropical, mixed drinks usually have more lengthy garnishes with perhaps several different fruits, while shorter usually classic, mixed drinks have smaller garnishes, usually a cherry, onion, or lemon peel twist.

5. Garnishes such as orange, lemon, or lime slices are hooked over the rim of the glass.

6. Fruits such as cherries, melon balls, or strawberries are sometimes speared with a toothpick and propped along the side of the glass.

7. Others like a peel twist, which is the peel part of the lemon or lime, olives or cocktail onions, are dropped into the drink itself.

8. Some garnishes are sprinkled on top such as nutmeg, cinnamon, or chocolate shavings.

9. Lemon, lime, or orange wedges are usually given a squeeze to release the juice and then dropped into the drink.

List of Popular Mixed Drinks and Garnishes

There are hundreds, and maybe thousands, of mixed drinks. Not all of them have garnishes, but many of the most popular ones do. Below is a list of popular mixed drinks and their typical garnishes.

Mai-Tai - Maraschino cherry, orange or lime slices, pineapple spear

Pina Colada - Pineapple slice and maraschino cherry

Margarita - Lime slice and salt around the rim

Zombie - Orange and lime slices

Hurricane - Orange slice and maraschino cherry

Planter's Punch - Orange and lemon slices

Tom Collins - Maraschino cherry and orange slice

Gin and Tonic - Lime wedge or lime peel twist

Long Island Iced Tea - Lemon slice

Screwdriver - Orange slice

Harvey Wallbanger - Orange slice and maraschino cherry

Mojito - Sprig of mint and lime wedge

Cuba Libre - Mint leaves and lime wedge

Mint Julep - Mint leaves dipped in sugar

Sloe Gin Fizz - Lime slice and maraschino cherry

Melonball - Melon ball and lime slice

Negroni - Orange slice

Bronx - Orange peel twist or orange slice

Manhattan - Maraschino cherry

Sidecar - Lime or orange peel twist

Pimm's No. 1 - Orange slice or lemon peel twist and cucumber peel twist or slice

Whiskey Sour - Orange slice and maraschino cherry

Old-Fashioned - Two maraschino cherries, an orange slice, and a lemon slice

Gimlet - Lime or lemon peel twist or wedge

Rob Roy - Maraschino cherry

Martini - Lemon peel twist, or sweet or sour cocktail onion, or green olives

Gibson - Sweet cocktail onion

Bloody Mary - Celery stalk

Brandy Alexander -Nutmeg sprinkled on top

Black Russian - Swizzle stick

Hot Toddy - Cinnamon stick or lemon peel twist, or lemon slice and star anise

Buttered Rum - Cinnamon stick

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