Secret Cocktail Ingredient: Salt
Today I’m going to tell you about one of my secret ingredients. I’ve been using it for years, but since it has recently become in vogue, you Cocktailians probably know about this already. It’s such a head-slapping no-brainer, I think everyone wonders why they didn’t think of it sooner. It’s perhaps the most used “spice” in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about . . . SALT! A lot of times, we drink-makers go to great lengths to balance a cocktail, to offset some sweet element with bitters, citrus, or sparkling wine. Sweet and salty have had it going on for ages, and for good reason: They have a real and pure chemistry; they complement each other.
I’ve seen a lot of cocktail recipes lately that call for a pinch of salt, and I think to myself, you copycat trend-jumpers just don’t really get it. Salt does not easily dissolve in cold liquids, so for best results one should make and use a non-iodized saline solution: 20 percent kosher salt to 80 percent water ratio (I also use hot water to dissolve the salt faster). Just remember, less is more. Most times, when I employ my salt solution, my goal is to fly under the radar, to enhance a drink’s predominant flavors without tasting salty. To quote Jack Nicholson from Chinatown, “This business requires a certain amount of finesse.”
Johnny Michaels is the author of North Star Cocktails and a master mixologist at La Belle Vie and Icehouse.