There Is An Actual Reason Cocktails Are Served With A Garnish

There is no denying the charm of a memorable cocktail garnish; A wedge of pineapple atop a piña colada whisks you away to your tropical retreat before you even start sipping the drink. In addition to being enticing, a cocktail garnish's visual appeal can inform at the same time, hinting at the flavors of a drink. (Think, a sprig of mint poking out of a mojito or a single strawberry perched on the rim of a daiquiri.) Garnishes also add to the cocktail's sense of fun and indulgence, helping you feel like you're truly getting something special for your $15.

While there is no denying that the lemon twist in your martini looks classy, it's actually there for more than just a stunning visual effect. Garnish choices are often very deliberate and essential to your drink recipe (after all, where would the old fashioned be without its signature orange peel?), with many classic cocktails inseparable from their iconic additions — and for very good reason.

Garnishes enhance the flavor of cocktails

Garnishes like berries, citrus wedges, and olives bring their own flavors to cocktails, which can balance out a drink or enhance the underlying flavors of the other ingredients (via Food & Wine). The lemon wedge on your Tom Collins isn't meant to just sit there — you can drop it in the drink or squeeze to bump up your cocktail's acidity. Garnishes should be considered ingredients, just like any other part of your cocktail, and their effects on the finished product's flavor should be taken into account just as much as any alcohol or mixer.

And the taste is only part of the equation: garnishes also add aroma to a cocktail, which can transform the drinking experience and alter the flavor, even when you don't directly consume them. (And honestly, you may be better off not eating the garnish.) That's because flavor is actually a complex process that involves multiple senses, particularly our sense of smell, according to Scientific American. That's why twisting a citrus peel over your cocktail isn't just for show; The oils released by the rind alter the smell and give your cocktail an entirely different vibe than adding lemon juice would (via Wine Enthusiast).

So next time you're mixing up a cocktail at home, follow your favorite bartender's lead and don't skip the garnish.