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The art of mixology: garnish basics

The fabulous thing about cocktails is their huge potential for wow factor. It is not just the ingredients in the glass that matter though, but how the cocktail is dressed. The right garnish completes the look with excitement or elegance (or both at the same time) as well as adding an extra touch of flavour. From a subtle sprig of rosemary to a tropical, mini rainforest complete with umbrella, here is your Clos19 guide to need-to-know, gorgeous garnishes.

Beyond looks

Garnishes and cocktails go back a long, long way. A beautiful garnish can be purely ornamental, but the best fulfil more of a function than simply looking pretty; they add a nuance of flavour or aroma to complement the drink itself.


Which garnish for which drink?

Don’t just grab any old bit of fruit that you might have at home to place on the rim of your glass; you’ll find that certain spirits work best with certain types of garnish because of the particular flavour combinations they create. Here are some classics to be aware of:


Fresh and citrusy, vodka-based cocktails tend to work best with lemon, grapefruit or lime citrus, be it a wedge, slice or a twist. Fresh, herbaceous garnishes such as mint, basil and rosemary also often enhance a clear, refreshing cocktail. Try the Rosemary Gimlet or the Caipiroska if this sort of style is your thing.

Punch Royal

Cognac-based cocktails love a twist of orange to enhance that warm, citrus spiciness (give the Mai Tai a try) and rum tends to favour tropical fruit (as well as extravagant, themed ornaments!) Try the Punch Royal with all its accoutrements for a fruity, taste sensation.

Whisky cocktails don’t tend to have fancy garnishes and if they have anything, it’s usually a simple maraschino cherry or slice of orange peel. Try the Whisky Sour if this appeals.

Certain styles of Martini cocktails love the savoury notes that come from an olive or an onion. And if you want to tell yourself that you’re being healthy while drinking, this recipe for a classic Bloody Mary combines the umami notes of Worcestershire sauce with earthy celery and a chili kick to flush your system.

Fruit-juice heavy, retro, tropical cocktails such as the Piña Colada or Tequila Sunrise provide the perfect opportunity for letting rip with your adornments. Wedges of fresh, tropical fruit, edible flower, umbrellas, plastic cocktail monkeys… if a little kitsch is what you’re after, these are cocktails where you can go wild with your garnish.

The trick is to think about how the flavour of a garnish might complement the ingredients and whether the colour and shape will enhance the overall look. Experimentation has yielded incredible results over the years though, so go for it and see what works. Who knows? Maybe you’ll invent something that becomes a classic, even if just in your own home…