Garnish Game: Level Up Your Cocktails

dear douglas bieschnapps and douglas fir tip cocktail

There’s a reason every bar you go to has at least three or four cocktail garnishes. The best bars often have up to twenty unique pieces of fruit, flower, bark, spices and more ready to adorn even the simplest of cocktails. But why? If a whiskey sour is simply sugar, citrus and whiskey, what could a sliver of citrus peel do to enhance the cocktail? To say it plainly, A LOT! Garnishes are the finishing touch of a cocktail, just like a pinch of salt on your favorite dish or a dab of your favorite perfume to complete your evening outfit. Garnishes tie the entire ensemble together and add that extra element to elevate your drink. Their strength is in their subtly. 

Here’s how I like to apply simple techniques to fresh plants to level up my cocktails:

For soft herbs like sage, basil, mint, or fresh spring Douglas Fir tips (like in my cocktail Dear Douglas, pictured above), it’s key to remember that the plant is home to tiny but powerful oils that need to be gently coaxed out of the leaves of the plant. To extract, either make a small bouquet in one hand and gently “whip” it over the back of your other hand, clap the leaf in your hands, or simply roll the greens very gently between your palms. These gentle technique keeps the herbs from bruising, but forces all the aromatic oils to the top. Below: Raspberry Sage Vodka Collins, Strawberry Basil Cooler, Mojito.

For fruits and veggies, the key is to keep them fresh! Cucumber is one of my all time favorite garnishes. In addition to being delicious, it’s also beautiful and incredibly aromatic if placed right on top of the ice so every sip is accompanied by the scent of fresh cut veggies. This also applies to apples, strawberries, and all other soft fruits. Below: The Range and Sleepy Tiki.

garnish game

Hard spices should be placed/floated on the top of your drink in the whole form or gently grated over. If your grate isn’t fine enough, you can end up with small pieces of wood and bark in your cocktail and teeth. Below: Imaginary Vacation and Higgy Baby.

garnish game


For citrus peels, cut a smooth strip of citrus peel away from the flesh of the fruit. Then, hold the pith (the white side) of the peel towards you and bend the peel in half longways to express all the oil hidden inside the peel. Hold the peel at least six inches away to really extend the reach of the spray. Then rub the peel on the rim of the glass and place neatly on top or drop into the drink. Now you’ll get a big hit of aromatic citrus oil every time you go in for a sip. Below: Heart Crusher Negroni and Negroni Blanc

garnish game




ginger spritz

Hello Spritz-tember

I am a firm believer that almost every drink could benefit from adding a little “razzle-dazzle,” by which I mean carbonation. Bubbles make everything

Read More »

Join Our Mailing List

Get the latest updates from New Deal Distillery, including special offers, information about new product releases, seasonal cocktail recipes, sponsored on-line events, and more!

Pick up
your spirits!

We now offer all of our locally-crafted spirits, plus wine & vermouth, beer & cider, mixers, barware, non-alcoholic beverages, hand sanitizer, and more at the New Deal Bottle Shop. Order online for covid-safe curbside pickup in Portland’s Central Eastside.