The Basics Tips & Tricks

How to Make Fancy Garnishes That Are Ridiculously Simple

Orange peel and mint sprig rose garnish / Tim Nusog

Infused simple syrups; tangy shrubs; homemade bitters: They all help create a great drink, but if you really want to impress, that drink needs a one-of-a-kind garnish.

Some of the most extreme garnishes aren’t all that practical for home use (next-level Bloody Marys, anyone?). Then there are the super-fancy, seemingly impossible drink-toppers used by Martin Cate and his team at San Francisco’s world-class tiki bar Smuggler’s Cove.

Roses and curling snakes made from orange peels; fans crafted from pineapple leaves: All are absurdly easy to assemble. Who has time to spend 10—or even five—minutes preparing a garnish on a busy night? “With our volume, we tend to do simpler garnishes,” says Cate.

Watch below as Smuggler’s Cove bartender Marcovaldo Dionysos demonstrates how to whip up five of the most effortless garnishes to ever grace a summer cocktail.

Slithering Snake Orange Peel

Are you a maverick with the citrus peeler? You will be after learning how to make this easy garnish. It adds a bit quirk to everything from tropical drinks to bare-bones staples like Old Fashioneds and Negronis. Here’s what to do:

1. With your peeler in one hand and the orange in the other, start peeling at one end of the orange and guide the peeler all the way around. Be sure to make one end slightly wider (this will serve as the snake’s head) followed by a narrower long hook that will wrap around the glass.

2. With a straw or toothpick, poke holes in the wide end of the orange peel for a pair of adorably creepy eyes.

3. You have a snake!

Pineapple Leaves

Making frozen Daiquiris or Painkillers at home? Wow your guests with this seemingly complicated, but actually super-simple pineapple fan. Add a mint sprig and lemon twist for extra excitement.

1. Pull three full pineapple leaves from the fruit and spread them out into the shape of a fan. Using the ice in the glass to hold them in place, insert the pineapple fan into the glass.

2. Get extra-fancy by placing a sprig of mint and a thin lemon twist (use a channel knife for this) in front of the pineapple fan.

Orange Peel & Mint Sprig Rose

On a date? This unconventional bouquet is your ticket to romance. Plus, it’s much easier to make than it sounds. Take a look:

1. With your peeler in one hand and the orange in the other, start peeling at one end of the orange and guide the peeler all the way around the fruit.

2. Roll the orange peel into a rosebud shape.

3. Secure the orange peel by pushing a toothpick through the center.

4. Pull a mint sprig down through the center, making sure that a couple of leaves remain outside the peel, to create “leaves.”

Mint Sprig & Dendrobium Flower

If peeling citrus isn’t your idea of simple, here’s a garnish that takes the gold medal for easiest flashy cocktail accessory. All you need is a mint sprig and a dendrobium flower, which is an inexpensive orchid variety (you can even buy them online).

1. Slap a mint sprig and place it in the drink. Follow with a colorful dendrobium flower.

Mint Sprig & Napkin Cape

Whether you’re throwing a superhero party or just need to keep your hands dry while sipping a sweaty cocktail on a hot summer’s day, here’s a simple way to accomplish both. We see many caped Mojitos in our immediate future.

1. Add a mint sprig and freshly ground nutmeg to your drink (nutmeg is optional). Fold a cloth napkin horizontally and make another half-inch fold at the top. Continue to roll it down halfway (until you have enough material on the ends to tie it).

2. Place the napkin around the center of the glass and tie it off.