10 of the Best Cocktails That Don’t Need a Garnish

There’s no denying the value a good garnish can add to a cocktail. From the aromatic lift a lemon peel offers a Gin Martini to the spicy, snack-friendly candied ginger you find on the edge of your Penicillin, garnishes can bring a new dimension of flavor to a drink — or even just make it all the more aesthetically pleasing.

Then again, there are some occasions where sourcing and adding the proper ingredients just feels like a hassle. Let’s say it’s Friday night and your bar cart is stocked with spirits and liqueurs, but you’re out of cocktail cherries. Maybe you’re hosting a dinner party and want easy-to-serve refreshments that don’t require hours of peeling citrus and daintily balancing twists on the side of each guest’s glass, or perhaps you’re just not a fan of something hitting your nose every time you go to take a sip. But instead of ditching the finishing touch on your favorite cocktail and potentially missing out on a balanced flavor profile, you can opt for a drink that’s naturally garnish-free. These drinks typically feature a highly aromatic component such as absinthe, Chartreuse, or gin that allow them to reach your senses without any add-ons.

So, when you’re short on supplies or time, look to these 10 cocktails that can really sing sans garnish.

Death in the Afternoon

The Death in the Afternoon is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

This two-ingredient cocktail is the definition of low-lift. It’s as easy as adding absinthe to a chilled coupe glass and slowly topping it with Champagne. Make Ernest Hemingway (the drink’s inventor) proud and serve these as a welcome refreshment at your next moveable feast (dinner party).

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Paper Plane

The Paper Plane is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

Though some may toy with the idea of attaching a small paper plane to the side of this modern classic with a tiny clothespin, it’s broadly considered a no-garnish drink. Created by mixology mastermind Sam Ross and inspired by the M.I.A. track “Paper Planes,” this well-balanced cocktail is equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice.

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Last Word

The Last Word is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

Let’s be real: during Prohibition, garnishes were probably the last thing on drinkers’ minds. Determined cocktail-lovers snuck into back-room speakeasies for good, strong drinks, lemon twists be damned. That’s why it makes sense that this Prohibition-era cocktail is served garnish-free. The Last Word’s mixture of gin, green Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice is delightfully aromatic despite the lack of garnish, so go ahead and try it at home — if you can find green Chartreuse, that is.

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Naked and Famous

The Naked and Famous is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

True to its name, the Naked and Famous is served garnishless — or naked, if you will. Bartender Joaquín Simó, who created the drink at NYC’s Death & Co., describes it as “the bastard love child of the Last Word and the Paper Plane conceived in the mountains of Oaxaca.” This combo of mezcal, Aperol, Yellow Chartreuse, and lime juice has certainly proved it can be provocative without waving a pineapple slice or tiny umbrella in your face.

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Single Village Fix

The Single Village Fix is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

The complex Single Village Fix is meant to pack a punch on its own, no snazzy garnishes needed. In this melange of mezcal, pineapple gum syrup, and lime juice, the mezcal is meant to shine. Bottle selection is key here, as the mezcal you choose will have a serious impact on the flavor profile, causing it to lean into smoke, charcoal notes or more fruity characteristics.

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Aviation

The Aviation is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

The Aviation is another Prohibition-era cocktail that was brought back to life in the 21st century. The gin-based drink is known to be a crowd-pleaser, delicately balancing tart and floral flavors. And the cocktail’s signature blush purple hue it gets from the crème de violette is eye-catching enough without any extra add-ons.

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Champs-Élysées

The Champs Elysees is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

The elegant Champs-Élysées cocktail is composed of several distinctly aromatic components, so even though it’s served sans garnish, the fruity and floral aromas will rise to greet your senses. The base of the drink is Cognac, which adds great complexity, and is complemented by green Chartreuse, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters. Simple syrup adds richness and balance to the final product.

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Lion’s Tail

The Lion's Tail is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

If you’ve ever wondered what a tropical Old Fashioned would taste like, it’s time to try the Lion’s Tail. Though this drink has gone in and out of favor over the years, we’re always down for this bright yet unctuous mixture of bourbon, allspice dram, lime juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. Though some modern interpretations add a lime or orange twist, the cocktail traditionally has no garnish.

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Corpse Reviver No. 1

The Corpse Reviver no. 1 is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

Often overshadowed by its counterpart, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, the Corpse Reviver No. 1 is an elegant and easy-to-make drink that should be on your radar. Somewhat of a riff on the classic Manhattan, this drink combines Cognac with apple brandy and sweet Italian vermouth for a bold, boozy, and bittersweet profile.

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White Russian

The White Russian is one of the best no-garnish cocktails.

The Dude didn’t garnish his White Russians, and neither should you. Part of the appeal of this drink is the ease of making it, so go ahead and fill up your glass with vodka, half-and-half, and coffee liqueur and sit back for a movie night.

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