How to Garnish a Cocktail

Most cocktails are not complete without the garnish. Not only does a garnish add eye appeal but it can be, and most often is, a major flavor component. So, don’t discount the garnish when creating cocktails at home or at your bar. They are quintessential in crafting the drinking experience.


2 oz gin

3/4 oz vermouth

2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters


Stir with ice.

Strain into glass.


Robert Hess 9 Jun 2008
10:59 am

Ok, so the truth is out… I actually like those little paper parasols, surely I’m not the only one? :->

Kimberly Patton-Bragg 9 Jun 2008
11:25 am

I thought those parasols were the most glamorous things I had ever seen when I was a little girl. I was also obsessed with swizzle sticks. Go figure I’d grow up to be a bartender. As far as savory garnishes go , when I’m making a Danish Martini ( Aquavit, vermouth ) I like to take a slice of roasted red pepper and wrap it around a sprig of dill. Simple,  pretty, and adds a nice flavor.
As for the salmon, I know its good for you and I keep trying to like it. Maybe soaked in gin might change my mind :->.

Thomas 9 Jun 2008
2:02 pm

Hm, the Salmon Martini! 

I think that “Tillicum” works a little better.  Nice!

Joel Sheehan 10 Jun 2008
5:52 pm

An excellent episode, strangely enough breaching a subject that I’ve been hoping to ask some questions about since discovering The Cocktail Spirit.

I’m new here ... Hi All, Robert ... But I’ve been trying to catch up despirately. I’ve been doing some home bartending for about a year now, mixing myself the occasional drink of an afternoon after a stressful day, or something nice before or after dinner.

I’ve developed quite a love for what I would believe you would call a Dry Gin Martini, and the Manhattan and the Black Russian. However recently I’ve noticed that I’ve stagnated a little on a number of drinks containing minimal amounts of fruity elements like juices and garnishes. I feel that often when considering the purchase of lemons or limes, or mixing a drink containing them, my biggest issue is concern for keeping things fresh. If I take a lemon twist, or lemon slice for garnish, is it worth trying to keep the remaining parts of the lemon fresh for a later date? Should I just juice the remenants and store it? Or is it just likely that I’m going to be wasting fruit no matter what I wish to do?

Obviously fresh fruit is always best, but if 100% fresh isn’t possible, how can I ensure it, and other garnishes, are as good as possible?

Robert Hess 10 Jun 2008
6:15 pm


You have raised a VERY good point. And one which I probably should have brought up in this episode as well, but trying to pack a lot of information into a short “web-isode” can often be difficult.

Bars, which can easily go through a lot of fresh fruit a night, rarely (should) have a problem with keeping fresh fruit around. But the home mixologist, who may only end up making a couple cocktails a week, might have a hard time justifying keeping a small bowl of fresh lemons around “just in case” they need them.

Which is part of the reason why I mentioned about how for the home mixologist the garnish is often overlooked.

I’ll admit that I often go many weeks without having any fresh citrus around the house to either garnish my cocktails, or make them with.

Without fresh citrus I will NEVER make a cocktail which requires fresh citrus juice. However I will make a cocktail which would otherwise properly use a citrus garnish.

Either I don’t garnish it at all…

after all, since I am the only one to see it, who does it hurt? Well, actually that’s the wrong attitude, since I definately notice.

...or I use a garnish that doesn’t require fresh citrus. For example on my Martini’s I will often use an olive, speared on a nice metal sword-pick (which I love!).

I’ve seen “preserved” lemon-twists at Williams-Sonnoma… but that is just plain wrong. While W-S might “get it” from a food/cuisine standpoint, they are pretty much clueless from a cocktail/cuisine standpoint. The only times they get it right (like their grenadine), is perhaps purely accidental.

So, for the home mixologist, it is often not a bad idea to pick up a couple lemons, limes, and oranges during their normal supermarket trips “just in case”, and be prepared to toss them out in a few days, or to think about alternate ways to make cocktails “special” without the garnish. One of which is to pick up some special glasseware… but that’s a topic for a future episode… so stayed Tuned!


Matt 12 Jun 2008
1:27 pm

I find that if I’m just using a lemon for twists (to get those delicious oils on the top of my martini), they keep for a decent amount of time in a plastic bag in the fridge.  They don’t keep for weeks, but you can get several days from a single lemon without it shriveling up.

Chuck Taggart 13 Jun 2008
11:54 am

I’ll fess up too ... I like da umbrellas.  :-)

I’m looking forward to trying the Tillicum too—it makes me feel less crazy for having garnished cocktails with a piece of bacon, so thanks!

Blair Frodelius 18 Jun 2008
4:36 am


Joel brings up an excellent question. 

Here’s my standard procedure for making cocktails at home.  I generally buy a bag of organic lemons, organic limes and a bag of juice oranges each week.  I store them in plastic containers designed for keeping fruit fresh on my counter.  I don’t refrigerate, because the fruits are then harder to zest, peel or cut. 

Like Robert, I don’t always garnish at home, even when I technically should.  But, I try.  My main frustration has been with lemons.  A lemon that has had it’s peel removed will tend to mold within a day or two.  So, I will plan out my recipes to make any that call for lemon juice and/or a peel garnish at the same time.  Limes are not so bad, but they do dry out rather quickly.  Oranges are the worst.  Especially juice oranges with their thin skins.  I’ve tended to go with canned pineapple juice and bottled grapefruit juice, since my Ebaloy juicer is too small (Robert, I still miss seeing you use the Ebaloy!).

So, here’s my solution to using as much of the fruit as possible.  After I am done making my cocktails, I take any leftover unsqueezed fruits and squeeze them into small plastic jars and refrigerate until the next morning.  I then will make either lemonade, limeade or have a small glass of orange juice for breakfast!  If I have a little extra time in the morning, I will make myself a sangrita (non-alcoholic).



beachbum berry 26 Jun 2008
8:29 am

Ahoy Robert,

Do you or any of your viewers have a source for the small purple orchids used to garnish tropicals such as the Mai Tai?  I know that restaurants buy them in bulk to use as plate garnishes, but my Google search came up snake-eyes…

Oh, and mahalo for another great webisode!

Kimberly Patton-Bragg 26 Jun 2008
1:29 pm

I don’t know about bulk, but I have been able to find those orchids at Dean & Deluca, Whole Foods, and Garden of Eden. If I’m lucky I’ve been able to find them at my local bodega. If I’m having a party that I need a bunch, my nice bodega lady will order them for me.
By the way, I came down from NYC to NOLA for your Tales of the Tiki event and had a blast and you have another Tiki drink convert. I was soooo wrong about what I thought Tiki drinks were about( and tasted like). Our restaurant has a pretty awful recipe for Mai Tais and that was the extent of my Tiki knowledge. Thanks for educating my palate and I’ll see you at Tales!

beachbum berry 26 Jun 2008
3:18 pm

Thanks for the kind words Kimberly ... oddly enough, I was asking about orchids specifically for the dinner I’m doing at Tales. They have a Whole Foods in NOLA, so that’s a good start ... see you in July!

doug marshall 17 Aug 2010
2:33 pm

Robert,  I am addicted to your show, and have learned a lot, so thank you from the bottom of my glass.  Where did you find the channel knife you used to get that triagular shaped lemon jest?

Robert Hess 18 Aug 2010
4:44 am

Doug, I think most of the channel knives that I have will do a somewhat triangularly shaped zest, the particular knife I am using in this video can be found here:

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