1. Home
  2. Journal
  3. Garnish Guide to Whisky
By Harriet Leigh, Head of HospitalityISSUE #015 CULTURE & COCKTAILS | Education

Garnish Guide to Whisky

The drinks world is full of purists, none more so than in the whisky world. Understandably, when you take into account the considerable time and effort that goes into producing some of these whiskies.

At Archie Rose, we believe in enjoying your drink, your way. Life is full of pressure and responsibilities and after a long day, we believe the best way to fix yourself a drink is just the way you like it. That being said, we're also here to give great advice so if you ever have a question about serving your favourite drink, get at us! And otherwise, here are some thoughts about how and why to garnish whisky drinks.

A neat tot of whisky is a joyous thing. Whisky served neat will always be its most traditional serve - and for people who baulk at adding ice we suggest they may not have ever had the opportunity to enjoy a single malt served when the weather is over 35 degrees (perhaps not a uniquely Australian problem but certainly one we face more than most whisky-appreciating areas). When you're enjoying a 25-year-old Scotch from Islay, you may prefer to sit and appreciate its nuances without distraction or you may want to add a few drops of water (a lower alcohol content will assist in your impression of flavour). However, you may also want to pop that venerable liquid into a whisky sour. This "bastardisation" may offend some purists but we think if you put an incredible whisky into a cocktail you end up with an incredible Whisky Sour.

There are lots of options for garnishing whisky cocktails. We've selected some of our favourites and included why we love them. They also quite happily cross-pollinate so feel free to experiment. This list isn't exhaustive and it isn't a bible. Chop and change. Switch and swap. Find your happy place.

Lemon Twists

A lemon twist, like an orange twist contains oils sweeter than the juice you might be more familiar with using in your kitchen. But lemon can lift savoury, dry notes. You might be au fait with using a lemon twist on a Martini but try it on a Sazerac, an Old Pal or a more mellow Manhattan.

Pictured above: an Old Pal.

Orange Twists

The oil expressed from a twist spritzed onto the surface of a drink brings a sweet, rich, acidity. Unlike the juice of an orange, the oil contained in the skin is thick and sweet. It will heighten the sweetness of whisky or modifiers like sweet vermouth. It works well on an Old Fashioned, a Sour, a Boulevardier or a Manhattan among many others. It's a great go-to.

Pictured above: an Old Fashioned.


Known for their richness, cherries allow for the enhancement of fruit-forward modifiers like sweet vermouth or maraschino liqueur. In cherry season we'll show you how to preserve the fruit to last all year. Classically used on a Manhattan or Whisky Sour but was also employed on a myriad of retro drinks, but often the lurid, bleached 'cocktail cherry' version.

Pictured above: a Manhattan.


Nutmeg has long been used on cocktails for a couple of excellent reasons. Number one: it's delicious. Number two: a grating of nutmeg is greatly utilised on a cocktail with egg white or whole egg in them. Egg can sometimes omit an 'egginess' or sulphuric note that can throw off a well-balanced cocktail. Something scattered on top can mask this very well. That could be nutmeg, or a dusting of chocolate, or the spritz of a citrus twist. Nutmeg is often used on a Whisky Sour or a Flip.

Pictured above: a Flip.