I'll just have a lime with that... Wait! Do garnishes even matter?

August 20, 2017

Have you ever wondered why they put limes on Margaritas and oranges in Old Fashioneds? Why a single olive swims in your Martini and why ... well, you get the point.


Today, we decided to take a look behind the blade of a bartender and explain the science behind garnishes such as why certain garnishes are used, how to use them properly, and lastly some garnish extravaganza.

 1. Why should I use a garnish?

You like booze - we get it. Really! But here us out. 


Usually, a bright piece of fruit or a briny olive; garnishes are used to complement drinks. When and where that started to happen seems to have been lost in one of many hangovers. No reason to judge that some of the history got lost since it's basically history about drinking and you probably forgot something too after drinking a little too much.


These complementations can be achieved by using different parts of the ingredients. 

* Oils: by squeezing the peel of citrus fruits, oils get released, which rise right into your nose

Aroma: mint or rosemary, for example, have a strong aroma in themselves

Ingredient itself: drop it in, good to go

* Inedible (e.g. umbrellas): makes you feel fancy, doesn't it?


2. What garnish do I use?


Limes & Lemons

One of the most common garnishes is the citrus wedge (or wheel) you can find on your Cuba Libre or Long Island Ice Tea. Limes and lemons are very similar, whereas most people rather grab a bag of limes than lemons. 

Limes are mostly used for drinks that already contain a lime flavor such as Margaritas or Mojitos to enhance the flavor. For rather bland flavors like cola-based drinks (e.g. Cuba Libre) limes are used for an accent taste.


Lemons, on the other hand, are mostly used for lemonades (duh!) as well as iced teas.



For a citrus twist, the basic idea is all about those oils we mentioned earlier. The oil is there more for aroma than for flavor. If you engage all your senses while enjoying a cocktail, and you certainly should, your schnoz will notice a waft of fresh citrus aroma drifting off the glass as you lift it to your lips. An ideal twist should consist of the peel only (avoid the pith) and can come in all shapes and sizes (more inspiration to that below).

Herb Life

Herbs are usually never an accent or stand alone taste but rather used to underline the flavor of a cocktail. Rosemary sprigs, for example, have a strong aroma by themselves and can be combined with a sweeter note (like raspberries) to put an interesting twist on drinks.


Be aware of mint! You have to be delicate and a little rough at the same time because if you muddle it into a Mojito you got to have a light hand in order to keep a little of the structure. When it comes to garnishing with mint, you got a treat it like a bad girl (or boy) and give it a good spank. This releases the aromas of the mint and it will give it that delish smell (and don't be greedy with the sprigs)!



My name is Spirit, Barspirit. Vodka Martini, stirred, not shaken, straight up, 2 olives. No exactly like Bond, but still a classic. Not really in use for much else, olives and cocktail onions are a delicious mix for Martinis and the like. Who had the idea of dropping an olive in there? No idea and again, hard to trace, but it was a good one for sure!


Pro Tip: You can even make your own cocktail onions! Why, you ask? One major advantage of doing it yourself is being able to season them as you please. CLICK HERE for more.



Other fruits like cherries or pineapples are mostly used for tropical drinks like a Bahama Mama or Mai Tais. These drinks usually pack quite a punch and are rather sweet. Here, you just got to go with your gut and look at the ingredients to determine what to put on top. Maybe, you can also add a fancy little umbrella if you have it!


3. How to garnish


Step 1 - Tools

For the proper garnishing, you'll need some proper tools. Get yourself a sharp knife and a peeler. A sharp knife alone would work too, but a peeler is going to make your life a little easier. 


Step 2 - Choice of Garnish

Look up! (Hint: point 2 of this post)


Step 3 - Rim the Glass (if applicable)

Margaritas or Salty Dogs will need a salt rim, for example. Some drinks will work really well with a sugar rim like a lemon drop.


Step 4 - Make your Cocktail

Check out our awesome cocktail recipes on our blog! Pour the cocktail into the glass (with ice if the drink calls for it). If you are not sure if the drink calls for ice, just listen carefully and you're probably going to hear a silent "iiiiccceee, ice baby".


Step 5 - Garnish

Cut, peel, and craft your garnish. Make it fancy and now - enjoy!


4. Garnish Extravaganza (for some inspiration)

Links in descriptions so you can try it at home!

Closing Statement: Once you get home and start trying, you can feel free to do whatever you want. Get creative, take pictures, show them off to your friends on Instagram (don't forget to tag #barspirit). 

And if all this post did is that you go out, buy a jar of cherries and oranges, get crazy and eat all the cherries, so be it. 

Now, get yourself a drink (or some cherries). You deserve it!




Joshua Mentrup

Alcohol Connoisseur 

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With a direct, fun approach, Barspirit is a full-service Los Angeles CA mobile bartending service firm, specializing in mobile bartending services in Los Angeles CA.

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