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.
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.)
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:
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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:
- a 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
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
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.
- grated chocolate
- chocolate or mocha fudge sauce
- caramel or butterscotch sauce
- cranberry sauce
- melted peanut butter or nutella
- homemade whipped cream (or boozy whipped cream)
- homemade sprinkles
- crushed candies or cookies
- candy canes
- sugar cookies
- gingerbread cookies
- homemade sugar cubes
- toffee bits
- mini chocolate chips
Last but not least, there are some easy cocktail garnishes that you don’t have to cut, refrigerate or prepare in advance at all!
- red-and-green paper straws
- metallic paper straws
- Christmas cocktail picks
- red and green cocktail umbrellas
- drink stirrers
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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