Learn with A Bar Above

Herb & Spice Garnishes

Herb Garnishes

As with all garnishes, herb garnishes should be chosen because they re-emphasize the flavors already existing in the drink, or complement them. Perhaps one of the most iconic herb-garnished drinks is the Mojito. Mint is used both in the creation of the cocktail, and typically to garnish on top as well.

Photo by anieto2k/ CC BY

Common Herb Garnishes:

  • Mint Leaves
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Using Herb Garnishes:

  • The most important thing to remember when using herb garnishes is to ensure they are fresh. This will vastly improve their appearance and increase the degree of aroma that they bring to the cocktail. Since we want our garnishes to remind the guest that we use high-quality ingredients, it makes sense to ensure the garnishes are bright, fresh and fragrant.
  • When adding herbs as a garnish, choose a sprig and spank it in your hand before using. This releases the aromatic oils in the leaves.
  • Remember that many amari, bitters and vermouths are infused with herbs and spices – so if you are using these ingredients in your cocktails, see if you can reflect the herbs they used to complement the cocktail.
  • Since many herbs have woody stems (like rosemary and thyme), you can get creative – use these as skewers for other complementary garnish.
Photo by Dinner Series / CC BY

Spice Garnishes

Spices aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when bartenders think of garnishes for their drink. But, like herbs, they are often used to flavor many of the drinks ingredients, like amari, bitters and vermouth – and therefore represent an opportunity to highlight certain flavors visually for the guest.

Common Spice Garnishes:

  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Star Anise
  • Vanilla bean

Using Spices as Garnish:

Since spices aren’t generally purchased “fresh”, there are other ways to ensure quality.

  • Most importantly, try to get the highest quality ingredients possible.
  • If your garnish calls for a grated spice, try to buy it whole and grate it at the time of service (Nutmeg and Cinnamon are great candidates for this approach.)