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What am I Supposed to Do with the Cocktail Garnish?

Some cocktails could hardly be imagined without their typical garnishes. For example the olive in a Martini, onion in a Gibson, a Bloody Mary with celery stalk, or the cherry in a Manhattan. The purpose of cocktail garnishes is to either enhance and compliment or contrast the flavours of the drink and to add a nice aesthetic touch and some style to a cocktail at the same time. Whilst some garnishes have an aesthetic function only, some cocktail garnishes can be eaten! Let’s find our way out of this cocktail confusion and learn how to handle the cocktail garnishes properly. If you’re interested in learning more about proper table manners, check out my courses or get in touch.

Table of Contents

Some cocktails could hardly be imagined without their typical garnishes. For example the olive in a Martini, onion in a Gibson, a Bloody Mary with celery stalk, or the cherry in a Manhattan. The purpose of cocktail garnishes is to either enhance and compliment or contrast the flavours of the drink and to add a nice aesthetic touch and some style to a cocktail at the same time. Whilst some garnishes have an aesthetic function only, some cocktail garnishes can be eaten! Let’s find our way out of this cocktail confusion and learn how to handle the cocktail garnishes properly. If you’re interested in learning more about proper table manners, check out my courses or get in touch.

In general, we can differentiate between two categories of cocktail garnish, edible and inedible.

Inedible Garnishes

These are quite self-explanatory, and I don’t think it is necessary to mention that we are not supposed to eat a paper cocktail umbrella. Straws, swizzle sticks, or sparklers are all examples of inedible garnishes that are used solely for decoration. Another popular inedible cocktail garnishes are citrus peels or twists. They add essential oils and a nice smell to any cocktail experience. Additionally, they could be rubbed around the rim of the glass before serving, floating inside the drink, or just sitting balanced on the glass.

Edible Garnishes

Cocktail garnishes such as various kinds of fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, edible flowers, or egg-white foam, fall in the category of edible garnishes, but not all of them are intended to be eaten. It all depends on where and how they are being served.

On the Rim of a Glass

Firstly, let’s take a look at cocktail garnishes served on the rim of a glass. Think about lemon, lime or orange wedges or wheels, or any other fruit wedges or bite-sized pieces. These all can be eaten. It is up to you to determine whether to eat it, or how much flavour of the garnish you wish to have in your drink. You may take the slice of orange, for example, squeeze the juice in, drop the fruit in your drink or set aside. However, keep in mind food safety, and if you’re not sure whether the fruit has been washed or not, or if the fruit does not look fresh, just put it aside before you drink.

Inside a Drink on a Cocktail Pick or Loosely

Secondly, your cocktail could be served with its garnish inside the drink, either loosely or on a cocktail pick. IIn this case, it is again your call whether you want to eat it or not. If the garnish is on a cocktail pick, you can have it at any point as you enjoy your drink. I prefer to savour the olives towards the end, as the garnish offers a nice change of palate before returning to finish my drink. If your Martini comes with three olives, you can have one olive with the first sip and the second or last one as you finish the drink.

Even if the garnish is not on a pick, and it is in its original form, unsqueezed, sitting at the bottom of your drink, you may want to eat it as it naturally falls into your mouth with your last sip. Cocktail cherries and olives are the perfect way to end a cocktail.

#Tip

As I mentioned, a garnish enhances the flavour of the drink. Guess what? This works the other way as well! The garnish gets the benefits of the drink’s flavour in return. So an olive that was sitting in your Martini could be as delightful as the Martini itself.

Squeezed or Muddled

Lastly, if the garnish is squeezed or muddled, it becomes an integral part of the drink. Therefore, it should not be taken out and eaten. These garnishes are meant to be experienced the entire time you’re drinking. This also applies to any fresh herbs and aromatics such as mint or thyme. Trust me, fresh thyme is no fun to eat on its own, even when soaked in a delicious drink. 

To wrap it up, and to answer my question from the beginning of this post – Yes! It is indeed proper to eat cocktail garnishes. However, make sure they are eaten properly. Remember to keep your fingers out of your drink at all costs and avoid fishing out cocktail garnishes. Cheers!

If you want more tips on how to behave in various social situations, check out my classes. For more personalised help, I’m also available for 1-on-1 sessions. 

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