Holiday Garnishes for Drinks

Make your cocktails make a statement with these easy holiday garnishes for drinks! From fruits and herbs to spices and candies, here are more than 80 festive ways to dress up your libations for holiday parties and seasons drinking.

For that in-between time between Christmas and New Year's, enjoy a Poinsettia Champagne Cocktail! Equal parts both holidays, this sparkling cranberry cocktail is worth toasting the holidays with. (via feastandwest.com)

Garnishes are the key to making gorgeous cocktails that impress.

And there are tons of ways to do it. (See my list of over 100 garnishes, plus 30+ holiday recipes in my Holiday Spirits ebook, available now!)

If you’re having a friend over, a cute straw or even a lime wedge on the edge of the glass can make all the difference in making your cocktail feel professional.

Honestly, even if it’s just my husband and me at home, sometimes I will still garnish the cocktail.

It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but a garnish always makes homemade drinks feel like they’re from the snazziest bar in town.

And there’s a big reason why: A good drink will appeal to as many senses as possible.

Taste, of course, but the scent, visual appeal, texture, temperature and, yes, sometimes even sound will all make a difference!

(Examples of sound in a cocktail: The fizz of champagne. The sizzle of a burning sprig of rosemary. The crackle of ice.)

top view of a pumpkin spice old-fashioned with a cinnamon stick on top, next to four pie pumpkins and a jar of pumpkin spice syrup

In the picture above, I used a cinnamon stick, a piece of orange zest and a big ice cube to garnish this pumpkin spice old-fashioned.

Did I need all of it? No, technically not. It will taste great all on its own with just bourbon, bitters and pumpkin spice syrup.

However, garnishes add WAY more than looks to a cocktail.

They add fragrance and flavor as well. Not only can you eat some of them, but they often hit the olfactory nerve.

So in that cocktail above? The orange zest brings a bit of tart citrus flavor and scent, to add to the bourbon and bitters. The cinnamon stick pulls out the warm spice notes. The smell is just as important as taste, and these two garnishes pull double duty.

The ice may crackle or rattle in the glass. The temperature will be cool. The texture will be smooth. And, it’s a pretty drink to look at!

80+ holiday cocktail garnishes

When you’re making drinks at the holidays, there are a number of ways you can elevate the look to give them more of a holiday feel. You may want to stock up on a few of these when you stock your bar for a party.

Here are my favorite ways to garnish my holiday cocktails:

A Chai Old Fashioned Cocktail is the fall and winter nightcap of your dreams. Made with chai tea ice cubes, the chai spices infuse slowly as the ice melts into the whiskey, letting more flavor seep in with every sip. (via feastandwest.com)

Ice

The ice is both functional and decorative. It makes the drink cold of course, but it gives it a more professional feeling. The big shape helps it to dilute more slowly than regular ice, too.

Use filtered water if you can make your own ice. I use this filtered water pitcher in my home and I adore it.

To dress up your ice, you can use tea ice cubes, like I did in this chai old-fashioned, or you can make berry ice cubes with raspberries, cranberries or pomegranate seeds.

You can also make ice with pieces of herbs in them, like rosemary sprigs or pieces of thyme.

a closeup of a pomegranate mimosa on a marble background with holly leaves, a champagne cork, pomegranate seeds and both whole and cut pomegranates

Fruit

Fruit makes a pretty garnish, always. It adds color, flavor and fragrance, and you can eat it.

My pomegranate mimosa uses a few fresh pomegranate seeds for a garnish. They add crunch and movement, as they “dance” in the fizzy champagne.

  • Slices of apple or pear
  • Slices of orange, blood orange or grapefruit
  • Slices, wheels or wedges of lemon and lime
  • Whole or halved kumquats
  • A piece of lemon or orange zest (I use this vegetable peeler)
  • Candied lemon or orange peel
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Cocktail cherries
  • Fresh or sugared cranberries
  • Fresh raspberries
  • Olives (savory, but still a fruit!)
Based on the traditional Moscow Mule, the Yule Mule is a holiday cocktail featuring ginger beer and cranberry juice. Garnish it with rosemary and fresh cranberries for a cocktail that tastes just like Christmas! (via feastandwest.com)

Herbs

Herbs are edible, yes, but you probably wouldn’t want to chew on them if they aren’t cooked into a dish.

That said, they have so much fragrance and they add a lovely pop of green color to many drinks, from the mint julep to herbal limeade.

  • Fresh thyme
  • Burnt or fresh rosemary
  • Sage leaves
  • Mint sprigs

Not an herb, but you could also put a holly leaf on a garnish or a branch on a tray of cocktails for a festive pop of color.

an apple cider mimosa on a wooden coaster with cinnamon sticks, an apple and a pitcher of apple cider

Ground spices 

Spices are a gorgeous way to dress up a cocktail, and they pack so much flavor. Try one of these:

  • a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • vanilla bean seeds

Though not ground, vanilla extract is another spice that can be added to cocktails for its sweet flavor.

a sugar cookie martini on a white background with a sprinkle rim and a sugar cookie

Rims

Putting something fancy on the rim is a great way to dress up a drink.

Roll the edge of an empty glass in something sticky. For a salt rim, a lime wedge will do! For sweet things, you can use maple syrup, honey or even sugar cookie icing.

Then, place your rimming garnish on a plate and roll the edge of the glass in it. Now you can add your ice and cocktail to the prepared glass.

A few holiday cocktail rim ideas:

  • cinnamon sugar rim (or the same recipe, but sugar mixed with pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice!)
  • margarita salt
  • crushed candy canes
  • crushed dehydrated raspberries
  • gingerbread cookie crumbs
  • Oreo cookie crumbs
  • sugar cookie crumbs
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • shredded coconut
  • sanding sugar
  • graham cracker crumbs
Spiced Apple Cider Rum Punch is the dreamiest fall cocktail to serve at your Thanksgiving table! Homemade spiced rum really takes the cake! (via feastandwest.com) 

Whole spices

Whole spices, as in spices that have yet to be ground up, can also make a gorgeous garnish. (And they are delicious in spiced rum, too.)

  • cinnamon sticks
  • star anise
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • candied ginger
  • vanilla beans
Warm up a winter evening with a mug of Spiked Peppermint Hot Chocolate. Featuring homemade peppermint vodka, this easy minty hot cocoa drink is made on the stove with real chocolate. (via feastandwest.com)

Something sweet

The best for (almost) last!

Many cocktails at the holidays have extra sweet stuff, and who are we to complain? They are wonderful and are most used in after-dinner drinks like hot cocoa or a White Russian.

cranberry mimosa on a white background with a carafe of cranberry juice and a bowl of sugared cranberries

Purely decorative 

Last but not least, there are some easy cocktail garnishes that you don’t have to cut, refrigerate or prepare in advance at all!

Let me know how you end up sprucing up your drinks! Tag me @feastandwest on Instagram or use the hashtag #feastandwestrecipes on your pics. Would love to see what you come up with!

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