Words by: Jerry Tolen & Tess Posthumus
Salt is becoming more popular as an ingredient in cocktails. What started off as a rim on some tequila based classics, is now being pinched in even some of the fruitiest cocktails. The reason for this rise in usage is that salt is a great flavour binder for many reasons. It brings out citrus flavours, suppresses bitters and adds extra depth to your sweet drinks.
Knowing your salt gives you an edge and proper usage complements your drinks even more. Although the tastes are fairly similar, differences in texture and color do vary and are well worth knowing about. Below you will find some of the various kinds.
Table salt - This commonly used salt is mined from salt deposits underground. It has a high sodium chloride level and contains additives such as iodine and anti-caking agents.
Kosher salt - Named after its use for making meat kosher, this type of salt usually contains no additives or iodine. It has a flakey texture and is perfect for infusing salt with herbs or liquids.
Sea salt - Made by evaporating sea water this salt has a flakey texture and is a bit higher in minerals than table salt. Great for infusing with herbs, creating a salt rim around your drinks or just adding a pinch for flavouring to some of your cocktails.
Himalayan pink salt - Harvested form the Khewra salt mine in Pakistan this salt contains traces of iron oxide that gives it its distinguished pink color. It also contains minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium and is preferred by many people.
Fleur de sel - Hand harvested from the water surface of salt evaporation ponds, this type of salt gets its name from the scent of violets that drift over the drying flakes. Fleur de sel has a very complex and salt rich flavour due to its chemical composition. Having traces of calcium and magnesium chlorides which absorb moisture, they pre-dissolve minerals inside the salt creating an instant flavour boost when tasted. A very nice salt for saline solutions, rims and also perfect for giving your cocktail a pinch of wonderful complexity. Although a very expensive salt compared to other types it is definitely worth experimenting with.
Saline solution - A lot of bars started using a saline solution as a balancer for their drinks. This way you don’t have to worry about any sediment at the bottom as well as being able to tweak your cocktails with great precision. Keep in mind that we are talking drop(s) here, which add a more round and complete flavour to your drinks.
Using a dropper bottle is the best way to increase your precision and is highly recommended. The solution itself can be balanced to preference, however a 1:10 ratio in weight is great to start off with. This way you can be very precise and don’t have to worry about overtaking other flavours.
Besides balancing the amount of salt used for your drinks and the usage of various types of salt, infusing your salt is without doubt the most fun and diverse way to go. You can really customize your salt to fit any cocktail or drink (if complemented by salt of course). Think about your Bloody Mary’s with celery salt, a Margarita with a zesty infused salt rim or just having a specific salt infusion to fit your own creative design like for instants a red wine infused salt rim for a sweet chocolate cocktail.
It takes about a week in an airtight jar to infuse your salt which you can enjoy for up to three months. When making your own infusion, it is important to know that any fresh ingredients should be dried first as leaving too much moist in will change the texture and flavor of your salt. You can also buy your herbs and spices dried to save some time.
Using an oven for drying herbs or infused salts is one of the best ways to go. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and dry your herbs for about 30 minutes. Leave the oven door slightly open to let the moist out. Make sure to spread your herbs out over a sheet of baking paper for a better result and remember that you want them crispy not burned, so make sure to take a look every 10 minutes.
When using fresh juices or other liquids to infuse your salt it takes a bit more heat of course. Usually around 30 minutes at 200 Fahrenheit with the oven door slightly open.
- Break the salt as much as you can for better mixing and add the liquid of choice to the mix.
- After it is dried take the flavored salt out and break it loose once more.
- Store it in a jar for longer usage.
You can go as diverse as you want with this. Red wine salt for instance is very interesting due to the variety of red wines available.
- Cook three cups of red wine to a syrupy state (for a 3:1 balance).
- Add a cup of kosher salt or sea salt to the pan and mix it properly.
- Spread out the mix in a shallow layered pan or oven plate and let it dry.
Air drying takes about two days depending on the level of humidity in the room while oven drying is a two hour job at 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Do make sure when oven drying your salt to give it a stir every 30 minutes.
As far as infusions go, kosher and sea salts are your best choices due to their texture and overall flavor. Table salt can also be used for infusions but does not have the same quality taste due to its additives and mineral composition.
Before diving in it is wise to know that many infused flavors are already available. Looking online can be a great way to start, as companies are creating more and more combinations for you to use and get inspired by.
In cocktails salt has been a bit of a sleeper throughout the evolving process. Of course there were a few classic examples like for instance the Margarita and the Bloody Mary but the real boost came a few years ago when the balancing qualities of salt became more known. The reason for this is that salt was the only flavour actually missing from the pallet, so using it really sets your drinks apart. When used with balance of course salt can highlight citrus flavours, suppress bitters, support sweet flavours and really rounds up the complete picture. The salty revolution is well under way at this moment with people experimenting with various infusion types as well as the overall usage of different kinds of salt. Truly a wonderful mineral with a great future in the cocktail scene.