How to Decorate A Cocktail in Traditional Ways

Decorations for cocktails fall into two categories – the traditional garnishes and the contemporary.

The traditional garnishes for cocktails are maraschino cherries, olives, pearl onions, the celery stick, twists of lemon, lime and orange. Over the decades though, these garnishes have mutated to include everything from exotic fruits to gummy drops to edible flowers.

Skewering different fruits or condiments on a cocktail spear is only one way to garnish a drink. Another method is called frosting. This is where the rim of the glass is wetted and then dipped into crystalline or powdered substance of some kind. The traditional frostings are salt, sugar and powdered sour mix. However as cocktails have evolved both in terms of their presentation and their taste, new and unusual frostings for the rims of glasses have evolved such as cocoa, Jell-O powder and flaked coconut.
The most traditional and simple of garnishes is the orange, lemon or lime twist. This is a wedge of citrus fruit that is simply squished and then dropped in the drink.

A variation of this is the squeeze, in which a lemon or a lime is squeezed gently and then also speared with other fruit such as pineapple on a pick to use as a garnish for the drink. This is a standard garnish for drinks such as the Daiquiri, the gin and tonic or the Cuba Libre.

The green olive stuffed with red pimento is the stand-by garnish for a martini however nowadays you can find stuffed olives and black olives sitting on the rim of the drink. A very traditional garnish for a martini, which is enjoying a comeback, is the black olive that is stuffed with blue cheese and dropped to the bottom of the glass.

When it comes to traditional garnishes cocktails, the maraschino cherry is just as famous as the olive. The maraschino cherry is made from marac or Queen Ann cherries that have had the color leached out of them. The two most readily available are, of course, the red almond-flavored ones and also green, which are sometimes mint-flavored. However in the old days, pickled Queen Ann cherries, both the white and red kind were dropped at the bottom of Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails to give them a bit of kick. There is a trend to using sour and fresh Bing cherries in the swanky bars in New York. You can easily make your own “specialty” cherry by simply soaking your favorite type of cherry in some kind of brandy.