This classic technique adds flavor and finesse to your favorite cocktails, especially a margarita.

Who doesn't like the taste o the salty edge of a Margarita glass just as you're taking the first anticipated sip? In the case of this classic cocktail, the salt has a purpose beyond photogenic frosting: It offers delicious contrast for the acid of citrus and the earthy bite of silver tequila. And if you know how to properly rim a glass with salt, your mixology hour has suddenly become much finer.

lemon mezcal margarita
Credit: Bryan Gardner

How to Rim a Cocktail Glass with Salt

You need the salt to stick to the rim of the glass, of course, and that's easily done with lemon or lime juice, which turns sticky as it dries. (And you're using freshly-squeezed juice in your drink, anyway, right? Skip the sour mix!). There are two ways to apply the juice to the glass's edge: The first option is to squeeze a lemon or lime and pour the juice into a saucer. In a second saucer, spread some good salt to a depth of about an eighth of an inch. Holding the cocktail glass upside-down by the base, dip the entire rim into the juice, lift it out, and let any excess juice drip off. Now roll the outer edge of the glass gently in the salt, so that the crystals stick to the outside of the glass. (You could dip the whole rim straight into the salt, but then the salt sticking to the inside of the glass might dissolve into your drink, and mess with your carefully made cocktail.)

The other way to apply juice to the rim of the glass is to take a lemon or lime wedge, nick it with a knife, and swipe the wedge around the rim fitted neatly into that juicy, nicked spot. Then proceed with the salt-dipping, as outlined above.

The Juice

Lemon or lime juice are appealing options because they're sour, but you can use any other citrus you like; each will subtly alter the appearance as well as flavor-experience of the drink. Orange and blood orange will turn the edge to sunset. Pink grapefruit juice will make it rosy. Want a dramatic rim for your cocktail coupe? Use pomegranate juice.

The Salt

The type of salt on the rim of the glass matters. Skip the iodized stuff—table salt is too fine and will overpower you and your drink. Kosher salt offers good texture, while the shards of Maldon salt look good and taste even better. Pink rock salt is aesthetically appealing (and even more so if you are concerned about the microplastics in sea salt).

Variations to Consider

If you want to take it a step further, fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme or even citrus leaves can be chopped and added to your salt mix. For a fiery edge, try chile-salt! Edible and aromatic flowers are useful, too: Try making our lavender salt. Even your spice cabinet can be called upon; sour sumac and fragrant black pepper make excellent edgings.

Fresh citrus zest can be mixed into the salt for a vivid first impression. Use a microplane to zest an orange, clementine, lemon, or lime and stir the scented citrus skin thoroughly into the salt before spreading it in your dipping-saucer. Use immediately, or it will begin to clump (or dry it first in a low oven). For an even more intense experience, powder some dry citrus peel (we like Meyer lemon) in your spice grinder, and use that for your edging, instead of salt: Your cocktail just gained a lot of class.

Drinks to Pair with a Salted Rim

Need some recipes to start making making cocktails with a salted rim? We can help! Try our cooling Margarita Granita. This Smoky Serrano-Mint Margarita adds the complexity of sumac with charred Serrano chile to the glass's edge. A dramatic and sun-tastic Frozen Pomegranate Margarita has a salted or sugared rim, depending on your mood. Ever tried a Plum Margarita? It's wonderful. And a dash of homemade lime syrup makes all the difference in these Watermelon Margaritas.


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