Cocktail Garnish 101: Expert Guide to DIY Garnishes

Cocktail Garnish 101: Expert Guide to DIY Garnishes

Author: Gousto

If you’re not ready to go back to the pub yet, why not bring the bar to you this summer with these simple at-home cocktail styling tips? Are you ready to take your garnish game to the next level?

Whether you’re planning a garden party with friends or summer brunch with family, mastering the art of the cocktail garnish will help level up your hosting skills. 

Food stylist Jenny Brown from recipe box company Gousto shares her decorating tips to serve up sharp-looking cocktails that are a cut above the rest. 

From a lemon twist to a cucumber ribbon, this guide will make your cocktail creations perfectly Instagrammable with ingredients you already have at home. 

Plus, we’ve got six easy cocktail recipes you can make at home. Cheers!

Create a Citrus Twist 

Citrus peel is a simple but classic garnish. Creating them might look technically difficult, but they’re actually pretty easy to make – although a little patience is required! 

You can use any citrus fruit, just grab a vegetable peeler and gently glide along the surface of the fruit (trying to avoid the bitter white pith) then roll the cut peel into a twist and place in the glass. 

how to make cocktail garnishes

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

The twisting action is more than just for show. This is called ‘expressing’ the peel and if you do it over the top of your cocktail glass, you’ll distribute the natural oils in the citrus peel into your drink, adding a delicious tang of acidity.  

‘For a guaranteed party crowd-pleaser, take a toothpick and pierce through the citrus peel – balance the cocktail stick across the glass or leave hanging inside.’

Simple and tasty! 

Spice up your Cocktail Rim! 

If you’re planning to shake up a Margarita, then you might be thinking about garnishing it with a salted rim. It’s an easy way to add a decorative touch to your cocktails (as well as highlighting the contrasting flavours in the cocktail). 

First, using lemon or lime moisten the rim of the glass, pour salt or sugar into a dish and dip the edge of the glass to create an even coat. It’s quick, sophisticated and adds tons of flavour to your drink!

how to make cocktail garnishes

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

‘If you don’t enjoy salty flavours, then you can experiment with other mixtures. Sugar, herbs and even spices can add a stunning final touch to an expertly prepared cocktail. Try chilli flakes, cinnamon or mint mixed with sugar to coat the rim of the glass. 

‘For something like a Margarita with a punchy yet sweet taste, a salted rim complements the flavour. But instead of keeping it basic, add a touch of lime zest to the mix’

Level up With Herbs

A speedy way to add a touch of flair to any cocktail – herbs! Adding fresh aromatics such as mint, basil and thyme is a really simple way to add a final flourish to your cocktail. 

If your fresh herbs have been stored in the fridge, you might need to wake them up! You can do this by placing the herbs between your hands and clapping – this ruptures some of the cells, releasing the essential oils and increasing the aromas.   

You can even experiment with dried herbs such as rosemary and lavender, just pair together with the correct spirit and you’re in for a treat! 

how to make cocktail garnishes

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

‘If you’re using herbs to garnish your cocktail, find a complimenting flavour to your drink. For example, mint goes well with white rum (think Mojito!), whereas basil is a perfect companion for gin because of its anise-like flavour. 

‘Don’t limit the number of herbs used to garnish your cocktail, experiment with flavours by combining two or three different herbs to give your drink a unique taste. Why not test a mix of sage and mint?

‘If you’re keen to level up your garnishing skills, a simple hole punch can have a massive impact, you can get creative with shapes and effects to the herb leaves and fruit peels.’

Take things up a notch with fresh fruit 

Throwing a backyard bash? Forget the traditional maraschino cherry, fresh exotic fruit is the new go-to garnish. 

Simply cut your fruit into a wedge and then cut a slit to help you balance it on the edge of your glass. 

Fruit comes in all shapes, sizes and colours, making it the perfect way to jazz up any basic drink. Go big with a slice of watermelon, or downsize with kumquats. 

how to make cocktail garnishes

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

‘For the ultimate summer cocktail, use a biscuit cutter to cut creative shapes into your fruit chunks, you can try this with melon or pineapple. 

‘Along with fresh fruit, whipped cream can also be a great garnish for fruity cocktails such as pina colada and mai tai. Add a few sprinkles of shaved coconut for an extra tropical taste.’

A floral garnish 

Cocktails are all about experimentation, with flavours and decoration – edible flowers are a fabulous way to add heaps of colour and summery flavours to a simple cocktail. 

As well as looking incredibly Instagrammable, edible flowers will add exciting new textures and flavours to your drink, try rose, lavender, hibiscus, violas and elderflowers. A cocktail topped with a floral garnish is the best kind of drink – low effort, but with huge results! 

how to make cocktail garnishes

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

‘If you can’t find fresh edible flowers, try dried varieties like rose and chamomile found in the tea and baking aisles.

‘Flowers and herbs are a handy way to infuse spirits overnight. Chuck cucumber, lemon twist, fennel flower and gin into a beaker and leave to infuse ready for cocktails the following day. Keep it sealed tight, and it will last up to a month.’ 

Chocolate swirls 

Elevate your at-home cocktails with chocolate art, perfect for espresso martinis! Take a spoon of melted chocolate and get creative with shapes on a non-stick baking sheet. Place in the fridge until solid, remove from the baking sheet with a flat knife and use to garnish your cocktails. 

how to make cocktail garnishes

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

‘Another delicious way to add fun and flavour to your cocktails is with hundreds and thousands. Dip the glass rim into melted chocolate, press the glass into a bowl filled with sprinkles, place in the fridge till set and serve!’ 

Get creative with your ice cubes! 

For an indulgent cocktail, finish your drink with fruity ice cubes. This works best with summery drinks, such as Tequila Sunrise, Margaritas and WooWoo’s. Chop your favourite fruit into small chunks, place into an empty ice tray, fill with water, freeze and serve in your cocktail. Looks good and tastes even better! 

Jenny’s Garnishing Tip

‘Herbs and flowers make for a great ice filling, try freezing rose lavender or mint. When the ice cubes melt your cocktail is still beautifully garnished!

Quick & Easy Cocktail Recipes to Make at Home 

With just a few tasty essentials and a little practice, you can enjoy a variety of easy cocktails at home. So if you’re feeling a little adventurous, channel your inner mixologist!  

The Paloma 

Mix this classic cocktail for a garden party using freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, tequila, syrup, zesty lime juice and soda water. Enjoy with fresh grapefruit and lime peel.

paloma cocktail recipe

Pina colada 

If you’re a rum lover, you’ll love this tropical pina colada made with white rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream. Serve with a slice of fresh pineapple and shaving of coconut.

Piña Colada

Classic Negroni

Mix up a refreshing sweet negroni to sip in the summer sun. This easy, zesty cocktail is perfect for late-night drinks with friends or barbecuing in the sun. Finish off with a twist of orange zest or lemon!

Classic Negroni

Espresso Martini

This classic espresso cocktail is made with vodka, freshly brewed espresso and coffee liqueur. Garnish with whole coffee beans and serve as an after-dinner treat.

espresso martini recipe

Mojito 

Minty, zingy and super refreshing on a warm, sunny day. This classic cocktail is made with white rum, mint leaves, soda water and sugar. Serve with a fresh wedge of lime.

classic Mojito recipe

Bellini 

This easy peach fruit cocktail is bursting with zingy flavours and is perfect for a summer garden party with friends. Top off with a sprinkle of lavender and lemon zest!

peach bellini recipe

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