We margarita makers have known it for years: salt makes cocktails taste better. You may be thinking, ‘WHAT?’ or ‘HOW?’ or ‘WHY?’ – but it’s true. It’s a cold hard fact and there’s science to prove it.
Salt suppresses bitterness but enhances sourness and sweetness. That’s why it’s a match made in heaven with citrus cocktails, like Margaritas. But it also works with many more flavours – just like when you season food, it seems to round them out. Putting a pinch of salt into a cup of coffee has been a diner trick for years and we all know salt in caramel and chocolates works deliciously. It’s the same reason that bakers add a pinch to their pastry too.
As well as reacting with and changing the flavours in a drink, salt also releases molecules that intensify an ingredients’ scent, so as we smell the cocktail before we drink it, the taste is enhanced even more. And then there is the fact that salt forces us to produce more saliva in our mouths, making the texture of the cocktail feel silky and luscious.
Salt works in cocktails because it takes the bite away from the alcohol, allowing you to taste and enjoy the mix of flavours. Generally, a few grains of salt are magic in a Negroni, unless you love your Negroni assaultingly bitter, which some of us do. In that case, leave it out.
Salt is the secret ingredient a bartender should never be without. You can make your own saline solution to take around with you or use at home by mixing one part salt to ten parts water and decanting into a little dropper bottle, like an old bitters bottle.
May your cocktails never be wonky and unbalanced again!