The most common garnishes are citrus fruits – which makes total sense when you consider that many drinks are made with fresh lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice.
You can try adding a citrus round — a thin, circular cross-section of the entire fruit cut with a knife — for a fun, tropical feel, or a citrus wedge (that familiar bar garnish) if you want to squeeze the juice into your drink.
A citrus twist is the classiest of the bunch; to make one, slice off a thin strip of citrus peel using a knife or a peeler, twist it or wrap it around a straw to give it a spiral shape, then drape over the rim of a glass.
It's quick, sophisticated, and adds both the aroma and flavour of citrus oil to your drink.
Citrus is not the only fruit garnish in town. You can use almost any kind of fruit as a garnish, including cherries, pineapple, apples, strawberries, and everything in between (including olives, which yes, are a fruit). Cut a vertical slice in the fruit and mount it on the side of the glass, or skewer it on a cocktail pick and lay it across the top.
Flowers bring a lush, feminine, botanical aesthetic to your drink. There are many different types of edible flowers, including common garden flowers like cornflowers, nasturtiums, pansies, squash blossoms, and dandelions. If you do not feel like foraging through your flowerbed, specialty grocery stores often sell edible flowers in the fresh herbs section.
Herb garnishes can range from understated (a delicate spring of sage) to downright wild and overgrown (several bunches of mint or basil). Herbs do not just look pretty – they also add an intoxicating aroma to your cocktail, which you will inhale each time you take a sip. Before you add your herb garnish, press on the leaves to release their essential oils (but not so hard that you crush them).
SHRIMP AND PICKLES
If you want your garnish to be able to look you in the eye, a shrimp is a good bet. Shrimp and pickled vegetables (carrots, green beans, asparagus, onions) are go-to garnishes for savoury drinks like Bloody Marys and Caesars.
UMBRELLAS, STRAWS, AND OTHER NON-EDIBLES
Tiny umbrellas bring a playful, camp mood to a cocktail; you will typically find them used as garnishes for tropical drinks. The same goes for wacky, colourful plastic garnishes like miniature giraffes and elephants. But you might want to consider eschewing the plastic altogether, particularly when it comes to straws, which just end up in the trash.
Reusable stainless steel straws are ten times classier than plastic ones, and widely available, too.
Your first experience with a cocktail rim was likely the salted edge of a Margarita glass, but there are other options, too. You can use either sugar or salt, and experiment with mixing in other herbs and spices (try a chilli salt mixture, or cinnamon sugar). To rim a glass, pour the salt or sugar in a thin layer onto a plate, run a lime or lemon around the edge of your glass, and then dip the glass into the rimming mixture.
Source: Free the Tipple, Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women by Jennifer Croll, with illustrations by Kelly Shami