These Clever Cocktail Garnishes Will Impress at Your Next Virtual Happy Hour

Here's how to style your favorite sips so they're ready for their Zoom closeup.

4 cocktails showing selection of cocktail garnishes
Photo: Steven Karl Metzer

Planning a virtual happy hour with your friends? Check out this garnish guide for ideas on how to spruce up your favorite homemade cocktails or mocktails. With social distancing the new normal, virtual get-togethers are a must to make it though the week. Whether you're making the drink you always order at your usual go-to bar or shaking up a classic cocktail recipe, you can make a DIY version feel fancy by garnishing it with things you probably already have at home.

citrus twists and sugar, salt, and sprinkles-cocktail-garnishes-0320
Steven Karl Metzer

Rims and Twists

Adding a granular rim to the right cocktail or mocktail (think margarita and beyond), adds a new dimension both visually and from a flavor perspective. While kosher salt is a classic option, try using Himalayan pink salt, black salt or even salts mixed with seasonings. Sugars and sprinkles are great options, too.

When rimming a glass, be sure to first dip the rim in some sort of liquid so the salt or sugar will stay on the glass. Water works just fine, as does lemon or lime juice. For sweeter drinks, try rimming the glass in melted chocolate before adding sugar.

A twist refers to a strip of citrus peel that's cut off the fruit and twisted. It might be wiped on the rim of the glass and is displayed on or in the glass. Twists add fun shape and color plus a zing of flavor to all kinds of drinks including a Sazerac, Negroni, or an old fashioned. No fancy cocktail tool is needed to make a citrus twist—just use your trusty vegetable peeler. And any type of lemon, lime, or orange is a great option for a twist.

edible flowers and herbs for cocktail garnishes
Steven Karl Metzer

Herbs and Flowers

Nothing says "I'm-so-Martha" on a drink more than an edible flower or a sprig of fresh herbs. I grow a lot of marigolds, which are perfect for garnishing drinks. Other great options for edible flowers include, pansies, chamomile, hibiscus, snapdragons, and violets. Be sure to use only flowers that are edible and that are grown without pesticides.

Many fresh herbs like basil, thyme, cilantro, mint, and dried or fresh lavender, make excellent drink garnishes, too. Rosemary’s woody texture makes it sturdy enough to stand up in a drink, like this Mirto and Tonic.

fruits and vegetables for cocktail garnishes
Steven Karl Metzer

Fruits and Vegetables

Who doesn't love loading a Bloody Mary with vegetables and dropping fruit into sangria? Fresh produce makes a suitable garnish for so many other drinks, adding color, flavor, and a bit of crunch to the beverage.

Make sure the fruits and vegetables you add to your drinks as garnish don't just look good in the glass—they should also pair well in terms of flavor. Cucumbers are excellent with gin, while oranges and cherries are great with bourbon. Spicy or smoky chiles and mild peppers work well with tequila and lemons are a great choice for vodka. Drop fruits and vegetables directly in a drink, skewer them and add to the drink, or simply hang them on the rim of the glass.

spherical ice cubes and infused ice cubes
Steven Karl Metzer


Don't forget the ice cubes, which are otherwise known as! There's been a lot of innovation in ice cubes and non-traditional shapes are in instant way to add flair to your favorite sips. Sphered ice is one of my personal favorites. A sphere works well for drinks served in shorter rocks glasses and are an excellent choice for a Margarita on the rocks or this Pernod-Bourbon Spritz.

It's also easy to infuse ice cubes. You can add herbs, fruit, citrus rinds, diluted simple syrup, even hot sauce. Or freeze rosé in ice cube trays, it's a perfect way chill wine without diluting it.

To infuse solid fruit, simply drop pieces into an ice cube tray and fill the tray with water, then freeze. For liquid items like syrups or hot sauce, dilute with a little water then pour into the trays and freeze.

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