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Iconic Garnishes of 1920s Drinks

Updated: Jan 21

Just as it is with food, it’s all about the presentation of beverages at your Jazz Dinner. Garnishes give drinks flair and help distinguish one glass from another. Plus, each type of garnish subtly changes the taste and smell of the drink, making the experience multisensory.

For instance, orange peels are often used over orange juice in drinks. While the orange juice is water-based, the orange zest in the peel has an oil-based soluble flavor that packs a punch. Plus, most of the orange scent is contained in the peel. Because we experience flavor from both taste and smell, the fragrance of a citrus twist highlights the drink's tastiness.

When serving drinks at your Jazz Dinner, whether alcoholic or not, garnishes are a fantastic way to make your drinks look extravagant. Plus, they help guests distinguish one glass from another (“Hey, I hate olives. This must be your drink.”).

While the 1920s didn’t have the range of garnishes we have today, there are still some fun options for your Jazz Dinner.

Garnishes for 1920s Drinks

History of Garnishes

Cutting board full of drink garnishes

The exact origin of garnishes in cocktail history is unknown, and some surmise that garnishes were invented to complement juleps and cobblers – drinks that are centuries old. The earliest written reference to garnishes comes from Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide, written in 1862, and in it, he cites adding a citrus peel.

Rum Garnishes

Rum drink garnished with a cherry

Drinks made with rum are often styled with tropical-themed fruit slices. Lime or lemon is a peppy garnish that makes sweeter drinks, like rum and coke, dynamic and fresh. Some 1920s drinks made with rum include:

  • Mary Pickford: A white rum-based drink that is highlighted with a maraschino cherry.

  • El Presidente: A golden rum/ vermouth mix punched with an orange twist.

  • Hemingway Daiquiri: A white rum/ maraschino liquor concoction that features a lime wheel.

Tequila Garnishes

Tequila sunrises have oranges and cherries in them.

Tequila beverages are paired with lime flavors or other tangy citrus fruits. Some tequila drinks enjoyed in the Roarin’ 20s are:

  • Tequila Sunrise- With overtones of blanco tequila and lemon juice and syrup, an orange wheel and cherry snap the range of flavors into one lovely taste.

  • Mexican Firing Squad- A blast of tequila, grenadine, bitters, and more, a lime wheel ties this drink together.

  • Sunrise Cocktail- A swirl of Blanco tequila, orange juice, and grenadine, this sassy drink is garnished with orange slices and a cherry.

Gin and Vodka Garnishes

Bees Knees drink has a lemon twist.

Gin and vodka refreshments are decorated with various garnishes: olives, onions, a citrus twist, or maraschino cherry. Gin was the preferred alcohol in the 1920s, so the drinks have the most creative garnishes. Some 1920s cocktails include:

  • Bee’s Knees: Made with gin, syrup, and honey, this sugary drink is topped with a zesty lemon garnish.

  • Clover Club: Gin and syrup base with a bright lemon twist or fresh raspberries to make this vibrant drink pop.

  • Colony Cocktail: Primarily vodka with a highlight of a lemon peel.

What About Whiskey, Bourbon, and Brandy?

Mint Juleps have a mint leave as a garnish.

Typically, whiskey, bourbon, and brandy drinks weren’t served with a garnish. But there are some exceptions, especially when done in a cocktail.

  • Highball: Full of whiskey, this drink utilizes a lemon garnish that tastes fresh.

  • Mint Julep: This bourbon-packed drink features a unique garnish: fresh mint leaves.

  • Old Fashioned: Made with a smooth bourbon or rye whiskey, this drink is punched up with an orange peel and cherry.

Jazz Dinner Drink Garnishes Made Simple

You don’t need a complete bar to make your Jazz Dinner fun. Picking six or seven drink options, with two or three base alcohols, will make it easier on your bartender, especially if they don’t have any experience. Even if you have a short drink menu, adding extravagant and bright garnishes will add to the drinks’ appeal.

Even if you go simple, a 1920s bar is a fun addition to your Jazz Dinner -- and a money maker for your event.

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