Don’t Put the Salt on the Rim

Here’s a simple formula for improving a drink: NaCl.

Everyone who has graduated from – let’s be real – middle school, has had a margarita with a salted rim. Whether you snuck it or shared it with your older cousin or bought it down old Mexico way, you likely noticed that the seasoning brightened up the drink, giving it a wink of the savory that tempered the sweet of the citrus. Well, you weren’t the only one to notice, which is way bartenders are making NaCl part of the formula for so many new drinks.

“We’re employing saline in all of our signature drinks,” says bartender Chad Solomon of Dallas’s Cuffs & Buttons. “The difference could best be described- as going from black and white to Technicolor.” 

The reason one seasoning can have such a profound effect isn’t hard to understand: Why do you salt your steak? Salt gives flavors a backdrop and heightens the amplitudes on the taste profile. It’s not a cure-all – don’t be salt your Coors Light – but it isn’t not a cure all either. Make that Coors Light into a Michelada and you’ve got a ballgame.

Of course Solomon has a more scientific approach. “We employ a mineral saline solution, that is comprised of 10% Kosher Salt – by weight – and a mineral water called Crazy Water #4, from Mineral Wells, Texas,” he explains, adding that other minerals, including bicarbonate and sulfate also help punch up “brighten” a flavor by suppressing bitterness.

His recipe is complicated as hell, but he says home bartenders can do themselves a favor by creating a saline solution (one part salt to nine parts water) and adding it to their harsher drinks. Think of it as the oceanic approach. It’ll float your boat.

Photos by Getty Images