How to Choose the Right Garnish for your Drink

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The finishing touch to any self-respecting cocktail, the garnish plays an important but understated role in mixology. Ir allows the drinker to customize the cocktail to their preferred tastes. If a lemon or lime wedge is perched on the edge of their drink, for example, they can choose to squeeze it into the drink or leave it looking pretty on the side. Olives and cherries give the customer something to soothe the palate, ensuring the flavour matches perfectly with the cocktail they have chosen.

The garnish also adds an extra layer to the senses. It provides an enticing aroma that would be lost if the flavours were just added to the drink as part of the mixing process. Instead, the essential oils from the garnish linger in the air above the cocktail, enhancing the experience for the drinker. It is occasions like this when mint really comes into its own, adding that sweet, refreshing scent to the cocktail it is perched above.

With that in mind, how do you choose the right garnish for your drink?


Whenever there is lemonade in your drink, a lemon wedge is a natural option. Lemon is also great for darker drinks that contain cola, such as Long Island Ice Tea.


Rums and tequilas nearly always taste better with a lime garnish. A wedge is usually preferable to a wheel, as it allows the drinker to squeeze in the juice. Any
cocktails with lime juice in them are also enhanced with a lime wedge, which
helps accent that flavour.

Lime also makes a great contrast to sweet drinks like cranberry or cola, making it a great choice for the Cosmopolitan or a Spiced Rum and Coke.


If the recipe calls for ginger ale, add an orange wedge.

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Name a cocktail and I’ll guarantee it will only get better with the addition of a maraschino cherry! They can be added to almost anything but tend to favour tropical-style drinks like the Pina Colada. If your recipe includes sour mix, add a cherry. They are also great for whiskey cocktails.


Olives are far more selective in their drink choices. They are almost exclusively reserved for Martinis – whether made with gin or vodka.


Some cocktails require a salted rim that adds to the mixology theatrics and highlights contrasting flavours. It is great for a Margarita, which combines sweet ingredients with sharp tequila.

When it comes to choosing a garnish, the rules are loose. Follow any cocktail recipe exactly and you will have a perfectly matched garnish. But it can be fun to experiment, so use these guidelines to help avoid any disasters!

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Bartender's top tip

Consistency is key in cocktail making. Use a jigger or a measuring tool to ensure that you're adding the correct amounts of each ingredient. This not only helps in balancing the flavors but also in replicating the success of a drink you’ve particularly enjoyed. It’s easy to adjust recipes when you know exactly how much of each ingredient is in the mix.

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