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Destination: International - A Garnish Journey

Garnish Journey
Summer is the time for traveling and vacations! Whether you are traveling abroad or are looking for exotic flavors to try out at home, this article will serve as a guide to four different fruit from around the world that serve as perfect garnishes for cocktails. 
Cocktail with berry and mint garnish


While serving a decorative purpose, enhancing the appearance of your cocktails, garnishes also add aroma and subtle flavors to your cocktails. A list of in season fruits and vegetables is provided by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.


To get the most out of your fresh garnishes, don’t forget to pack a paring knife, a channel knife, a muddler or a wooden spoon, a shaker, and a strainer.


Originating from South America, this fruit is most well known in the world of spirits as being a key component in cocktails like Pina Coladas. Pineapple pairs very well with rum and agave based spirits like tequila and agave. Pineapple is very versatile when it comes to garnishes, working great as wedges and wheels for the rim of the glass. If you want to add some smokiness to your cocktail, you can grill your pineapple wheels. Lightly oil the grate and grill the wheels until they are lightly brown. 

Dragon Fruit

This mildly sweet fruit is native to Mexico and Central America. Dragon fruit pairs very well with clear spirits like vodka and blanco tequila allowing for the fruit's flavors to be at the forefront. Mixing dragon fruit with other fruit like strawberries, peaches, and citrus add some tartness that pairs with the sweetness of the dragon fruit. Dried slices of dragon fruit are a great garnish that adds flavor and color to your cocktail. Muddling dragon fruit into your cocktail is another way to add the fruit to cocktails.

Star Anise

This fruit is indigenous to Asia, specifically southeastern regions of China and Vietnam. While it is not edible, star anise adds a lot of flavor from being a part of your cocktail. They often act as a substitute for anise root, which is more expensive. Star anise pairs well with darker spirits and fruity cocktails, it is also popular to use in drinks like white russians and hot toddies. While simply dropping star anise in your cocktail as a finishing step can help add flavor to your cocktail, heating or toasting the fruit can help release essential oils which enhances aromas and flavors.


Mangos originated in South east parts of Asia like India and Burma. Mango excels when paired with more neutral spirits like vodka, blanco tequila, and gin. These neutral spirits allow for the mango's flavor to be heightened. Mango slices to place on the rim or to muddle or place into the drink are a simple and easy way to add mango to your cocktails. Try adding a maraschino cherry along with it! Mango cubes with chile-lime salt sprinkled onto them is also a way to add a flavorful mango garnish to your drink.

VA Local Garnishes

Looking for fresh ingredients to use for your cocktail? When travelling around Virginia this Summer, there is no better alternative for farm to table cocktails than Virginia’s many farmers markets! Using locally sourced fruits and vegetables can take your mixology adventures to another level, offering peak flavor, quality, and freshness. With over 300 farmers markets that can be found all over Virginia, there is a lot to explore!


Making wedges with your citrus fruit is an easy way to add citrus flavors to your cocktail.

To make citrus zest, place your citrus on a grater and rub back and forth until you reach the white of the pith and repeat on other flesh areas. Once done, remove the extra zest on the back of the grater.

Citrus Swaths can be made by shaving off long, wide pieces of citrus zest. Twist the swath to release the citrus’ essence, then rub it along the rim of the glass. 

Citrus spirals are like swaths, only they are much thinner. Using a channel knife, twist the citrus while the channel knife is pressed to the citrus to create a long spiral.


When preparing jalapenos for cocktails, you can remove the seeds to reduce the spiciness. Cut the jalapenos into thin slices or smaller pieces. To better release the flavor of the jalapenos, add them to a cocktail shaker and muddle them. Once muddled, shake the contents well and strain into a glass. Additionally, you can garnish the drink with jalapeno slices either by putting them on the rim of the glass or let them float in the drink.

Grilling jalapeno halves on high heat until charred for a garnish that is perfect for cocktails like an Aperol Spritz, adding smokey and spicy flavor to the cocktail.

Other peppers like habaneros or bell peppers can be added to increase the spice.


Use fresh watermelon juice by blending the watermelon.

Watermelon ice cubes can be created by cutting the watermelon into cubes and freezing them.

Slice the watermelon into wedges as a garnish for the rim of the glasses. Adding salt to your wedge can balance out the sweetness of the watermelon.

Mix with sparkling water or lemon lime soda and add a splash of lime juice.


Use a slice of cucumber as a garnish for the rim.
Muddle and add simple syrup, gin, and lime juice for a cucumber gin gimlet. Cucumbers pair very well with gin. 

Tomatoes can give your cocktails acidic, savory flavors. They are a key ingredient in cocktails like Bloody Marys and Micheladas. 
Cherry tomatoes make for great garnishes due to their smaller size. They can be used as a glass garnish or sliced up and put into the drink itself.


Make a berry skewer with either a pick or an herb stem. To make a stem skewer, poke a hole through the berries with a toothpick or metal cocktail skewer. Thread the herb stem through the hole made by the skewer. Add as many berries as needed. If the stem is not long enough, you can use cocktail skewers for both the berries and the herbs.

Berry and herb pairings:
  • Raspberries and Mint
  • Blueberries and Rosemary
  • Blackberries and Sage

  • Slice the fruit to wedge on the rim of the glass.
    You can also layer the fruit in a glass using ice.
    Muddling and blending are a great option as well!

    Old Town Alexandria Market

    Virginia's Farmer's Markets

    Now that you have a few ideas for garnishes, the next step is getting them! There are farmers markets located all over Virginia, but here are a few of the bigger markets:

    Historic Roanoke City Market – One of the oldest Farmer’s markets in continuous use. Operating since 1882. Here you’ll find locally grown produce, artisan wares, and regionally made crafts.

    The Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market – Open year around and features seasonally available vegetables, fruits, dairy products, floral arrangements, as well as butcher shops and a seafood market.

    South of the James Farmer’s Market – Richmond’s South of the James Market is open Saturdays May through October and includes a mix of local farmers, artisans, and businesses that offer a wide variety of organic products.

    Charlottesville City Market – Located in Downtown Charlottesville on Waterstreet. Fresh Fruits, vegetables, grass fed meat, locally made cheeses, jams and jellies, homemade jewelry, pottery, and more can be purchased here.


    You can find more information about farmers markets near you by visiting the Virginia for Lover’s Farmer’s Market Guide.

    Canned Cocktails

    Ready to Drink Cocktails

    Have a hectic schedule planned with no time to make cocktails? No need to worry! Ready to drink cocktails are a great alternative. They can be found here.
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