A cocktail pick, also called a cocktail skewer, is a bar utensil often used to spear cocktail garnishes like cocktail onions, olives, tomatoes, cherries, and citrus fruit peels. The stick is then placed on the rim of a glass to decorate a cocktail and improve its visual appearance.
It's a thin, elongated piercing tool with a decorative handle at the top. A cocktail pick can come in various sizes, ranging from 2.5 to 6 inches. The spear part is usually round, sometimes also flat-oval or angular.
These nifty utensils come in various materials like bamboo, wood, plastic, glass, stainless steel, and sterling silver.
What is a Cocktail Pick?
Cocktail picks, cocktail skewers, or cocktail sticks are thin, cylindrical sticks with sharp ends to decorate cocktails. For this, bartenders spear cherries, cocktail onions, fruit peels, grapes, or tomatoes on the pick and lay it on the rim of a cocktail glass.
Cocktail picks came in different sizes, colors, materials, and shapes. Most are reusable and made of stainless steel or sterling silver, while others are intended for one-time use.
What Are Cocktail Picks Used For?
The most common way to use a cocktail pick is to garnish a Martini with olives. Olives are speared onto a cocktail pick and put on top or inside your Martini glass.
However, many other drinks and garnish types rely on cocktail picks. Apple fan garnishes, like in this Angel Face cocktail, will need a cocktail pick to fix the fan.
A combination of Maraschino cherries and citrus peels is a common combination to create a fancy garnish for an Old Fashioned cocktail. Even Bloody Mary cocktails often make use of a cocktail pick to decorate a drink with a variety of things, from bacon to pickles, tomatoes, and quail eggs.
How to Use Cocktail Picks?
The best ways to use a cocktail pick are:
- Decorating cocktails
- Fishing cherries, olives, or pickles out of jars
- Use them for a cheese board
- Prepare little appetizers by loading each pick with multiple things like cocktail tomatoes, mini mozzarella, and basil
What Size Are Cocktail Picks?
The length of a cocktail pick can vary. Usually, it is between 2.5 and 6 inches. Standardized cocktail picks are between 4.5 - 5 inches long, including the decorative end.
The decorative item at the top is usually around 1 inch long, so the cocktail stick measures between 3.5 and 4 inches. Depending on the glass you intend to use, you might want to look for longer or shorter versions.
For example, if you want to position the cocktail pick on top of a glass, you should check the diameter of said glass. Always make sure the cocktail pick can comfortably sit on the rim without falling in.
If you want to stick it into a small Coupe or Martini Glass, it might make sense to use a shorter pick. And also one with an end that's more lightweight. Otherwise, it can easily tip over the rim of the glass and mess up your cocktail presentation.
How thick is a cocktail pick?
Regardless if your cocktail pick is wooden, plastic, metal, or bamboo: the standard thickness is around 0,1 inch (or 2.5 mm).
That makes the cocktail stick thin enough to spear olives, cherries, or raspberries yet strong enough not to break while preparing the decoration.
Especially bamboo and plastic picks will still break sometimes. -For instance, when facing a rebellious olive. In my opinion, it's better to invest in durable stainless steel or silver picks anyway. They last longer and protect the environment.
What are they made of?
Cocktail picks come in various materials: bamboo, wood, plastic, glass, and metal. I prefer cocktail picks with a stainless steel metal stick, while the decorative handle may be of a different material. They are reusable, easy to clean, elegant, and durable.
Most other materials are too fragile, not 100% hygienic when used more than once, or intended for one-time use only. But to give you an overview, those are your usual choices:
- Bamboo Pick: The cheapest ones are usually bamboo sticks which are supposed to be used only once.
- Wooden Cocktail Pick: An alternative is a wooden cocktail pick, which is quite similar to the bamboo version.
- Plastic Cocktail Pick: There's a chance that you can use them multiple times. Just be aware that they're prone to crack - depending on price and quality. Plus, average plastic cocktail picks are not much of an environment-friendly solution.
- Glass Pick: Very delicate, mostly handmade, and unique. Using a glass cocktail pick is a sophisticated way to pierce your fruity drink garnish. However, you have to be very cautious and treat them with care. Otherwise, they won't last. In a bar, it's also not ideal because glass splinters could end up in a drink of tipsy customers.
- Metal Cocktail Pick: Very robust and available in many designs. The all-metal picks are a perfect choice for your home bar. They are reusable and easy to clean.
Best Cocktail Picks
We talked a lot about what the ideal cocktail pick looks like, let's check out some of our recommendations. Here are the best cocktail picks to add to your bar cart.
Viski - Art Deco Cocktail Picks gold
Price: $16 (4 pcs)
- Vintage art deco design
- Made from durable stainless steel
- Color plating requires manual cleaning
These vintage-styled cocktail skewers from Viski are one of our favorites. They're made from durable stainless steel and feel quite heavy in your hand. They add an elegant touch to your cocktails and are ideal for garnishing classic drinks like a Dry Martini or Negroni cocktail.
The golden finish is very durable, however, to prevent color-changing, make sure to always clean them by hand. Most of the time, the plating won't suffer from cleaning in a dishwasher, but in some cases, it does (with all other picks, too).
They're about 5 inches long, around 0.5 inches above average. That makes the pick suitable for a higher number of glasses.
Love & Victory - Snake cocktail pick
Price: $24 (4 pcs)
- Creative, unique design
- Beautiful black enamel finish
- Durable and heavy
- The detailed snake shape makes it hard to clean
- Slightly shorter than average picks
The black and golden snake picks from Love & Victory are a great way to decorate your drinks in style. They're made from stainless steel with beautiful gold plating and a black enamel finish.
These delicate details have one downside, you must clean these beauties by hand. Otherwise, a dishwasher could harm the picks and destroy the color and finish.
They're slightly below average in size, with a heavy snake on top. That makes balancing a bit harder than usual.
Joanna Buchanan - Skull cocktail picks
Price: $98 (6 pcs)
- Unique skull design
- High-quality materials like stainless steel, zinc, and glass
- Hard to clean
- Slightly shorter than average
Joanna Buchanan produces some of the best cocktail picks available right now. My favorites are this badass skull picks with zinc and glass stone finish.
They're made from high-quality materials that make the picks not only look good but also very durable. The major downside is - like with all of these fancy cocktail picks - they require manual cleaning.
With 4 inches in length, the picks are on the shorter side of the spectrum.
Barfly - Grooved top cocktail picks
Price: $16 (12 pcs)
- Classic design
- An ideal length of 4.4"
- Appear inconspicuous
If you're looking for a more classic look, these cocktail skewers from Barfly are an excellent choice. For only $16, you get 12 classic-styled cocktail picks with delicate copper plating.
Made from stainless steel, these picks are remarkably durable and have a pleasant weight. Their elegant shape makes them easy to clean, even though, you still have to clean them manually if you're buying plated picks.
The length of these picks is 4.4 inches, an ideal length for a classic cocktail skewer. The top is also comparably light which makes balancing a lot easier.
Where to Buy?
You can get basic cocktail picks in your local supermarket. If you're looking for a more advanced design, look on Etsy or Amazon for a huge selection of picks. For custom-made, unique products check out producers like:
- Joanna Buchanan
- Love & Victory
What to put on a cocktail skewer?
However, don't be afraid to be creative. Cocktail picks with the speared garnish can elevate your cocktail in a fancy way. Think about your cocktail and its ingredients to find out what could complement or enhance its flavors.