Aaron Lahey
March 5, 2015 | Aaron Lahey

Thirsty Thursday: The Dirty Margarita

Hello and welcome to another Thirsty Thursday! 

The cocktail we're going to make today uses salt both to bring out the flavors in the drink as well as add a textural and flavor component by using a salt rim. A complex, smoky play on a classic Margarita, this drink sure is worth its salt. 

The Dirty Margarita
2 oz Good Mezcal
0.75 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz C&B Quinine Syrup
1.5 oz Liber & Co Pineapple Gum Syrup
2 dashes (12-16 drops) Napa Valley Bitters Fleur de Sel
1 whole lemon, juiced
2 dashes (12-16 drops) Crude "Rizzo" Bitters

Rim a highball glass with salt, fill with ice. Add all ingredients but Rizzo Bitters and stir gently. Float bitters on top, garnish with lemon wheel or twist and serve.

Today we are going to be talking a bit about an ingredient used in everything we eat, but is often ignored when it comes to cocktails. This ingredient is salt. Sodium chloride is a flavor enhancer and modifier, as Harold McGee explains in his book On Food and Cooking: "It strengthens the impression of aromas that accompany it, and it suppresses the sensation of bitterness." When the right amount of salt is added to food or drink during preparation, all the other flavors become more pronounced, without any salty taste being perceived. When salt is added directly on top of food as a seasoning, the salty flavor becomes more apparent. 

The same methodology goes for adding salt to cocktails. When a moderate amount of salt is added into the drink during its preparation, the salt itself is not perceived, but the entire drink is more flavorful. Salt doesn't readily dissolve in alcohol, so there are several easy ways to add salt to cocktails. The first is a salt tincture. This is a high concentration suspension of salt in alcohol, and mixes readily into a cocktail. Napa Valley Bitters Fleur de Sel tincture is a good one. Another is to simply dissolve salt into a small amount warm water, and add the salt water to your drink. Keep in mind that adding water to any drink will dilute the flavor, so this salt/water method can be counteractive. 

The classic way to achieve a salty taste with a cocktail is to rim the glass; the Margarita being a prime example. Modernist methods might include using salt cured fruit, salt foams or flavor pearls filled with a salty solution to add that salty character to drinks. In my personal opinion every cocktail should have a little bit of salt in it, just like all food should have some salt.

Until next week!
Your ever humble, briny bartender,
Aaron Lahey


Steve's Gravatar
@ Mar 6, 2015 at 9:39 AM
I will have to rethink using salt with my Margarita. I like the idea of using bitters as well. Thanks for the ideas

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