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THE ART OF
COCKTAIL GARNISHING

On paper, a garnish is defined as decorative and ornamental, but to us, it’s so much more. The right cocktail garnish is the difference between something ordinary and something memorable – a finishing touch that effortlessly elevates a cocktail from a drink to an experience.

To master the art of cocktail garnishing, you don’t need to be an expert mixologist, just the right ingredients and a little know-how. From a simple curl of lemon zest to a sprinkle of pink peppercorns, we’ve curated a list of our go-to garnishes, to help you add a bit more magic to your festivities this season.

The Simple Elegance of Fruit Zest  

Colourful, fragrant and readily available, it’s no surprise that citrus fruit peel is amongst the most popular cocktail garnishes. But this family of fruits goes far beyond your everyday lemons, limes and oranges, and there’s a handful of lesser-known options to explore. Take a look at our recommended pairings below:

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1. Lemon zest. A lemon cocktail garnish pairs perfectly with spirits like vodka and vermouth (think of the sharp citrus tang in a martini), but works well with whisky too.

 

Serve with: Aperol Spritz, Whisky Highball or Vodka Collins.

 

2. Lime zest. A little less sour than lemon, lime is an excellent choice for cocktails with a white rum or tequila base; you’ll often find it used as a Mojito garnish, along with a generous serving of chopped mint.

 

Serve with: Margarita, Mosc-no Mule, or Tequila & Tonic.

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3. Orange zest. Known as the sweetest citrus fruit, orange zest brings a lightness to heavier cocktails like Sangria. It also cuts beautifully through bourbon and scotch, so it’s the ultimate garnish for an Old Fashioned.

 

Serve with: Pinotage Spritz, Manhattan, or Christmas Spritz.

 

4. Grapefruit zest. Striking the perfect balance between sweet and bitter, grapefruit peel most often accompanies gin or white rum cocktails, but it’s delicious with citrus liqueurs like triple sec too.

 

Serve with: Vermouth & Tonic, Classic Daquiri, or Frozen Paloma.

 

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5. Pomelo. Closely related to grapefruit, pomelo has a slightly more floral flavour that blends brilliantly with gin and vodka, and brings a note of freshness to infused bitters, such as Campari.

 

Serve with: Pink Gin & Tonic, Grapefruit Negroni, or Zero Proof Bellini.

 

6. Yuzu. Native to East Asia, Yuzu is a unique amalgamation of lime, lemon and grapefruit, with a sharp edge. This taste profile lends itself well to tequila and mezcal, as well as sweet liqueurs.

 

Serve with: Yuzu Margarita.

London Essence Tip

For a more intense flavour, twist your strip of zest into a delicate curl. This movement should release

a small spray of aromatic mist from the fruit’s skin, which adds a layer of delicious freshness to any cocktail.

Aromatic Herbs and Warming Spices

A store cupboard essential for cocktail connoisseurs, fresh herbs and dried spices instantly add a note of luxury to your drinks, with minimal effort. Many cocktail recipes include spirits and mixers which are already infused with botanicals, so garnishing with a complementary herb or spice breathes new life into these flavours. Here’s a handful of our preferred herbs in cocktails, that work in mocktails too:

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1. Mint leaves. At once both sweet and refreshing, this versatile herb also makes an excellent mojito garnish, but performs well in whisky and gin-based cocktails too.

 

Serve with: Pimm’s, Zero Proof Mojito, or Mint Julep.   

 

2. Basil leaves. Known for its semi-savoury taste profile, a pinch of basil will uplift even the heaviest spirits. It’s often paired with tequila, gin, or a fruit-infused liqueur, like limoncello.

 

Serve with: Gin Basil Smash, Lychee & Basil Collins, or Comfort.

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3. Lavender sprigs. Lavender brings a delightfully floral flavour into the foreground, so it tends to work best with botanical spirits like gin, or Seedlip’s non-alcoholic equivalent.

 

Serve with: Lavender Gin Spritz

 

4. Rosemary sprigs. Frequently used in cooking, rosemary is also a popular cocktail garnish. Added to vodka, gin or dry vermouth-based cocktails, it provides a mouthwatering herbal finish.

 

Serve with: G & Tea, Rosemary Martini or Optimism.

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5. Cinnamon stick. A firm favourite during the holiday season, cinnamon is often used to garnish hot alcoholic drinks, or added to cocktails with a warming base like spiced rum, or whisky.

 

Serve with: Hot Toddy, Mistletoe Mule, or Cinnamon Old Fashioned. 

 

 

London Essence Tip

To extract a more fragrant flavour from your herbs and spices, handle them a little before adding to your cocktail of choice.

Roll peppercorns in your hands, or thoroughly muddle your mint leaves to release their aroma.

Now that you’re equipped with these expert pairing tips, you can wow your guests this season with the ultimate Christmas cocktail garnishes. You could even consider a few fun festive additions, like dried orange slices, star anise or pomegranate arils. For more seasonal hosting inspiration, take a look at our selection of cocktail recipes, which also includes a range of delicious mocktails.

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