As popular as the cherry, the olive and, to a lesser extent, the onion were,

there were still plenty of drinkers who preferred the old lemon twist with their cocktails. Beyond that, however, there was little that worked: no amount of monkeying around with things such as trumpet-of-death mushrooms and English pickled walnuts (huge, black things that nestled in the glass like a basketball in a Punch-bowl) could make the public accept them.

Some people take a great delight in ornamenting their drinks. For them, a drink without a garnish is only a drink in the same way that a caterpillar is a butterfly. The garnish, deployed with skill and imagination, is what pulls it out of its cocoon and allows it to display its true self to the world. I am not one of those people. My garnishing skills are basic, even perfunctory. But I have them, because as someone obsessed with the history of drinks I must: the art of garnishing drinks is almost as old as the art of mixing them, and while I can ignore history, I can’t rewrite it.


This article originally appeared in

The Cherry, the Olive & the Lemon Twist: The Cocktail Garnish in Three Acts

Our columnist traces the history and use of cocktail garnishes back to 1600s England.

and could be edited.

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