Cocktail Garnish Ideas for Summer

Summer cocktails need the prettiest garnishes! Check out these ideas for impressing your party guests with drinks that are as beautiful as they are tasty.

tiki punch with cocktail umbrellas

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What is a cocktail garnish?

A garnish is something you add to a drink to enhance the experience. Garnishes not only make a drink prettier, but add extra fragrances and textures as well.

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.

Whether it’s a cocktail umbrella or a simple lime wedge on the edge of the glass, a garnish can make all the difference in making your cocktail feel next level.

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

Why do we garnish cocktails?

A good drink will always appeal to as many senses as possible.

Taste is an obvious one. 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.)

Some garnishes — like straws and cocktail umbrellas — are purely visual.

But others do way more. For example, a bouquet of mint in your mint julep adds extra minty fragrance. A flavored rim on your Bloody Mary adds more flavor as well as texture.

a glass of bourbon with a pansy ice sphere

Summer cocktail garnishes

Garnishes are the key to making gorgeous cocktails that will wow anyone you serve it to. A delicious drink is good, but a garnished drink has that extra layer of professionalism.

Here are a few garnish ideas you can use on your drinks this summer:

Ice

Ice is both functional and decorative. It makes the drink cold of course, but making fresh ice gives it a more professional feeling.

Fresh ice means it is ice you make yourself in an ice mold, rather than the kind your freezer makes or the kind you get from a bag at the store. Those are great for big parties, but for a smaller soirée, you might consider making your own ice.

For a cocktail like an classic old-fashioned, the big cube or sphere shape helps it to dilute more slowly than regular ice, too.

You can also freeze ingredients right into your ice, like berries, fresh herbs or edible flowers. This chai old-fashioned uses frozen tea as ice cubes.

strawberries garnishing a glass of Strawberry Rosé Sangria

Fruit

You can’t beat fresh fruit in the summertime. It adds color, flavor and fragrance, and you can eat it.

This strawberry sangria uses fresh sliced strawberries and a classic Moscow mule uses fresh lime wedges.

Here are some other cocktail garnish ideas for using fresh fruit:

  • Slices of orange or grapefruit
  • Slices, wheels or wedges of lemon and lime
  • A piece of lemon or orange zest (I use this vegetable peeler)
  • Candied lemon or orange peel
  • Cocktail cherries
  • Fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries) added to the cocktail, on the rim or on a cocktail pick
  • Fresh peaches
  • Melon balls or cubes of melon (watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew, etc.)
classic Bloody Mary cocktail on a bed of garnishes

Veggies

For a savory cocktail like a Michelada or a Spicy Bloody Mary, you can add a number of veggie garnishes.

In fact, I have a whole post dedicated to Bloody Mary garnishes, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cheese cubes
  • Sliced or pickled peppers
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Shrimp
  • Bacon
  • Celery stalks

Peppers work for sweet-and-spicy cocktails like a Spicy Jalapeño Moscow Mule as well.

From taco night to girls' night, Strawberry Basil Margaritas are the freshest summer sipper around. With all the tastes of the farmers market, these tequila-based beauties are sure to be a fan favorite. (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 a strawberry basil margarita to herbal limeade.

They also work beautifully in summery simple syrups. Check out these recipes for basil syrup, mint syrup, lavender syrup and rosemary syrup.

I love growing herbs in my herb garden especially for my cocktails, but most of these are available at your grocery store in the produce section:

  • Fresh thyme
  • Burnt or fresh rosemary
  • Mint sprigs
  • Basil leaves
  • Tarragon
  • Lavender
  • Parsley (for Bloody Marys)
frozen margaritas with tajin rims

Rims

You can have tons of fun with rims on cocktails.

Of course, you already know the salt rim for margaritas — a classic!

You could also go for a zesty citrus salt or Tajìn (chile lime seasoning) instead.

There’s also flavored Bloody Mary rim salt that pairs with any type of Bloody Mary.

At the end of the summer, use cinnamon sugar on the rim of your early release pumpkin beers to get you in the mood for fall.

elderflower rose gimlet in a gold-rimmed stemless cocktail glass with pink garden roses and limes on a white background

Edible flowers

Edible flowers are perfectly seasonal and so pretty on a cocktail.

These floral ice cubes are some of my favorites. I made a big batch for a party a couple months ago and they were a huge hit!

Here are some edible flowers you can garnish with:

  • lavender
  • rose petals (as used in the rose gimlet above)
  • honeysuckle
  • elderflowers
  • pansies
a s'mores cocktail on a slate board

Something sweet

You can always go for something sweet, right? Garnishes too.

I love this s’mores white Russian because it has tons of campfire flavor and several garnishes — chocolate syrup, burnt marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs on the rim.

Frozen butterbeer is another summer favorite featuring boozy whipped cream and butterscotch sauce.

You can even put a popsicle in a glass of champagne to make a gorgeous poptail.

Here are a few more ideas for your dessert cocktails:

two rum and cokes with a citrus juicer

Purely decorative

And then, of course, there’s the non-edible garnishes which are also worth their salt.

A garnish with next-to-no effort? Sometimes that’s just what you need!

Try one of these:

Try them in colors coordinated with your event. Summer holidays and celebrations include:

  • Kentucky Derby (bright colors)
  • Mother’s Day (pastels or your mom’s favorite)
  • Father’s Day (darker colors or your dad’s favorite)
  • graduations (school spirit colors)
  • Summer Olympics (your country’s colors)
  • World Series (your team’s colors)
  • Memorial Day and July 4 (red, white and blue)

Let me know how you end up styling garnishes for summer 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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