Enhance your original cocktails with 15 creative cocktail garnish ideas
Whether you're a bartender, or self-proclaimed cocktail guru, these creative cocktail garnish ideas are going to level up your skills. Learn how to make elegant and fancy garnishes with techniques using fruit, edible flowers, and some surprising elements. These are the best cocktail garnishes to elevate your cocktails and begin creating exceptionally unique drinks.
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As somebody who creates cocktails, you know that part of the beauty of a cocktail is in the presentation. When people go to bars and spend $15 for a craft cocktail, they are not only paying for the alcohol and overall flavor of the drink, but also the presentation and 'wow' favor that comes when the drink is served.
Whether you're a professional or home bartender, today we are focusing on unique, creative, and elegant garnishes to enhance the visual presence of your cocktails. This post will help inspire you, teach you, and show you exact techniques you can bring back to the bar.
We will talk not only about garnishes in the traditional sense of using fruit to decorate and embellish the side of a cocktail glass, but also ice, heat, and florals as a way to elevate your cocktails.
1. Dry Ice
Using dry ice in cocktails is a really unique technique to garnish a drink. It's often used in dark-colored drinks to create an eerie effect. We often wouldn't think of dry ice as a typical garnish, but it adds the perfect embellishment to a cocktail, especially around Halloween.
Supplies Needed: Dry Ice - Dry ice can be sourced from your local grocery store, or by ordering it online. Make sure it is food grade dry ice.
Instructions: Purchase the dry ice right before you plan to use it as it turns into gas and disappears rather quickly (usually less than 24 hours when stored in a cooler). After you've made the cocktail and poured it into the serving glass, carefully drop a small chunk of dry ice in the bottom of the cocktail. Before serving, remind your guests not to let the dry ice touch their lips (it should sink to the bottom of the cocktail).
Important Safety Note: When working with dry ice, there are a few safety precautions to be aware of:
Never eat or drink the ice. If you're serving a cocktail with dry ice, the recipient of the drink needs to be well aware of this!
Never touch the dry ice. Always wear insulated gloves or use tongs.
Don't store dry ice in an air tight container. If the gas can't escape, it could lead to a potential explosion.
Always make sure to use dry ice in a well-ventilated area. The carbon dioxide emitted by the dry ice could cause suffocation in an enclosed space.
If you have leftover dry ice, do not throw it away in a sink or garbage can. Rather, let any remaining dry ice "melt" into gas in a well-ventilated area. Pouring warm water over the ice will speed up the process.
The safety of handling dry ice is very important. You can find more safety information here.
2. Edible Flowers with Cocktail Pick
Cocktail picks provide a sturdy surface for building elegant, edible cocktail garnishes with fruit or flowers. When selecting what to garnish your cocktail with, think about choosing elements and colors that compliment the drink. This could mean garnishing with a motif that gives a sneak peek into the flavors of the cocktail. Or, use the garnish as a way to add in an additional flavor to the cocktail.
As for colors, I suggest considering complimentary colors. For example, if you have a yellow drink, use purple flowers.
Instructions: Select fruit that is ripe, but still has some sturdiness to it. Begin playing with the arrangement of the fruit and flowers. Carefully determine which elements should be placed next to each other, and which way the fruit will face.
Once you've created a design you like, grab a cocktail pick, and carefully stick each element through. Make sure to pierce the fruit in the middle and the flowers on their stems to avoid any of the elements falling off.
Place cocktail pick on drink and serve.
Note: You could replace edible flowers for herbs if desired.
3. Honey Dipper
Honey can be a great alternative to traditional cocktail sweeteners. If you're using a honey syrup or a liquor infused with honey, consider using a small honey dipper as part of your garnish. It's a simple way to hint at the ingredients included in the cocktail.
Supplies Needed: Honey dipper
Instructions: Wash the outside of the honey dippers so they are properly sanitized. Once cocktail is in the serving glass, top with honey dipper.
4. Flaming Lime Shell
If you're looking for unique cocktail garnish inspiration, look no further than this flaming lime shell. Often used in tiki cocktails, this fire element provides entertainment and a fun dynamic to any cocktail!
Supplies Needed: Lime (juice already squeezed out), crouton or crusty bread, 151-proof rum or lemon extract, and butane torch or lighter
Instructions: With your spent lime (juice already squeezed out), insert a cocktail pick inside the middle of the lime and balance over your poured cocktail. Make sure all the lime fibers are pushed inside the skin.
Pour high-proof rum or lemon extract over a small crouton or dried out piece of bread. Place the crouton on top of the lime. Carefully, light the crouton with a butane torch or lighter.
You can hit the lit lime with ground cinnamon for an extra pop of fire.
Important Safety Note: Be sure to have extra care when handling fire, especially if this is your first time experimenting with this type of cocktail garnish technique.
5. Edible Floral Ice Cubes
Edible flower ice cubes are a simple way to create an elegant cocktail garnish. This garnish works best for drinks that are clear in color so the flowers can shine through in the cup. The best part about this garnish is that you can make it ahead of time, up to a week, for a party or happy hour.
Depending on your cocktail, you can create small ice cubes, or one large ice cube with multiple types and colors of flowers. Large flowers tend to work better so they are easily seen. Be sure that the flavors of the flowers work with the drink flavor they will be cooling.
Instructions: Boil and cool the distilled water. Using the ice cube tray, place the first layer of flowers in the bottom of the tray. Be sure to pay attention to the way the flowers are facing depending on the look you're going for. Fill the ice cube tray ⅓ of the way full of water. Freeze for a few hours until the water is solid. Repeat with remaining two layers.
Fill the cocktail glass with ice (tall glasses work better to display small ice cubes). Pour cocktail on top an serve immediately.
Note: Order the flowers right before you plan on making the ice cubes so they are nice and fresh. You could replace flowers with herbs if desired.
6. Smoked Cinnamon Stick
This creative cocktail garnish is actually two fold. Not only does it provide a nice visual touch, it also adds to the flavor and aroma of the cocktail. We're going to used this smoked cinnamon stick to infuse the cocktail glass, as well as add it as a garnish on top or inside the glass.
Instructions: Lay a piece of aluminum foil down on a plate. Using the butane torch, light one end of the cinnamon stick until it begins to smoke. Lay the cinnamon stick on the foil, and cover with the glass you plan on serving your cocktail in. Allow the cinnamon to smoke up the glass while you are preparing the rest of the cocktail.
Once the cocktail has been made, remove the glass from on top of the cinnamon stick. Pour the drink in the glass, and garnish with the smoking cinnamon stick.
Important Safety Note: As always, be careful when handling a butane torch. Be sure to read through the butane torch instructions before using it for the first time.
7. Stencils on Egg Whites
Egg white cocktails are very popular and lend themselves well to a colorful garnish. Whatever motif you'd like to convey on your cocktail, you can use a pre-made stencil, or can create your own re-useable stencil. This garnish method works for fancy or whimsical cocktails.
You have lots of options for the garnishes - you could grate cinnamon, or spray bitters. But, make sure you have a thick layer of egg whites to work with as your canvas.
Supplies Needed: Cocktail stencil, cinnamon stick, microplane
Instructions: After the drink has been poured in the serving glass, and you have a think layer of egg whites, select the stencil design you wish to use. Making sure the stencil doesn't touch the egg whites (I'd suggest leaving a little room between the top of the glass and the egg white layers), hold or place the stencil where you'd like the design placed.
Grate the cinnamon stick until the design is completely covered. Carefully lift up the stencil to reveal your design.
8. Butterfly Pea Flower Ice Cubes
These colorful ice cubes, made with butterfly pea flower tea, are a show-stopper in a cocktail. This method works when your cocktail is clear and compliments well with the flavors of the tea. When the ice cubes melt, they create a beautiful, dramatic color in the drink.
Instructions: Steep tea in boiling water according to package instructions. Strain tea and let cool. Pour the cooled tea into a silicon ice cube tray, and allow to freeze until completely solid.
Add into your cocktail of choice.
9. Large Ice Cube
Ice is oftentimes an overlooked piece of cocktails. Given the type of cocktail you're creating, a simple large ice cube can be the perfect piece to not only keep the drink cold, but also add a visual adornment to the drink.
Supplies Needed: Large silicone ice cube molds, distilled water (to make clear ice cubes)
Instructions: Boil and cool the distilled water. Fill up the molds as directed by the instructions.
Alternatively, you could make a large block of ice and chip away individual pieces for your cocktail.
10. Carved Citrus Peel
Break out your impressive knife skills with this garnish. It's actually easier than you may think. With a sharp paring knife, and some careful planning, you can create your very own carved citrus peel.
You could place this garnish inside the drink, pin it on the outside of the rim, or even place it gently on top.
Supplies Needed: Citrus (orange, lemon, lime), vegetable peeler, paring knife, cutting board.
Instructions: Start by peeling a large piece of skin from your citrus. Be sure to avoid the white pith. Trim down the peel to your desired shape using the paring knife. Be sure to use slow, careful movements as you cut everything down.
I'd suggest using an inspiration picture to help guide your cuts.
11. Spun Sugar
For an upscale, fancy garnished look to your cocktail, consider adding spun sugar. Even if this is a technique you've never tried before, it's something that you can master without having to purchase many new tools.
Supplies Needed: Granulated sugar, water, light corn syrup, small pot, parchment paper, 9 x 13 baking sheet, forks
Instructions: For complete instructions, check out the written and video instructions on Kirbie's Cravings
12. Lemon Disk with Spices
The classic fruit cocktail garnish can be upscaled with a few extra touches. This lemon disk is infused with whole cloves, and finished off with a pop of floral elements.
Feel free to switch up the citrus and the whole spices depending on your cocktail.
Supplies Needed: Lemon, whole cloves, edible food safe flowers (purchase online at Gourmet Sweet Botanicals)
Instructions: Slice a disk of lemon about ½ inch thick. Push a few whole cloves into the flesh of the lemon. Finish off by pushing a few stems of the edible flowers into the lemon flesh. Garnish off poured cocktail.
13. Monogrammed Fruit
A monogram is a creative way to personalize a cocktail...and remember which cocktail is yours at a party. Best part about this garnish inspiration is the versatility you have with the cookie cutter. You could really cut out any shape you wanted and add it to your cocktail!
Supplies Needed: Soft fruit or veggie (melon, cucumber, etc.), alphabet cookie cutters
Instructions: Cut a thin layer of melon (about ¼ - ½ inch thick). Carefully, press down the cookie cutter to create the letter or shape. Garnish on the side or on top of your cocktail.
14. Mini Clothespin
If you're looking for a delicate, creative cocktail garnish, look no further than this mini clothespin. It's a dainty way to garnish a cocktail with a small flower or herb. It also adds in an additional pop of color!
Instructions: Select a dainty flower or herb, being sure they have a short stem or tail. Once the cocktail is poured, gently clip the flower/herb on the side with a clothespin. Feel free to play around with placement.
15. Brûléed Lemon
An easy, but beautiful citrus cocktail garnish can be accomplished with the brûlée of a simple lemon slice. This would be another great garnish idea for a party, as you could easily prep this garnish ahead of time. This could also work with limes, oranges, or grapefruits.
Supplies Needed: Citrus, granulated sugar, butane torch
Instructions: Thinly slice a piece of citrus. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove access moisture. Line a heat proof surface with parchment paper. Sprinkle citrus slices with a layer of sugar. Using a butane torch, brûlée the citrus until golden brown. Allow fruit to cool before using as a garnish.
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