Once upon a time, salt was one of the most highly valued commodities in the ancient world. It’s production was restricted, so it became almost a method of trade and currency. The value was so high that actually the word salary is derived from salt.
Additionally the word salad is also derived from the word salt, as it became highly fashionable in Roman times to salt your leafy greens, but I digress…
Salt has always been the staple of the kitchen, only occasionally creeping behind the bar to rim a glass or accessories a shot.
But recently bartenders across the globe have been seen throwing a dash from an unmarked bitters bottle into every cocktail they make. That dash? Saline solution. Now you might think that adding salt to your cocktails would make them, well, salty. But interestingly that’s not the case.
In fact you are about to learn why salt was so highly prized. As any cook will tell you, when salt is added a certain magic happens. And that is just as true behind the bar as behind the stove.
Take With A Pinch Of Salt
Now you might be used to salt around the edge of your Margarita and the effects that it creates on that drink, but we’re not talking about a chunky salt rim.
Salt in fact makes drink appear softer and fruitier in taste – and drinks unsalted may appear bitter and intense.
Yep, Salt is not about achieving a salty taste but other about amplify the flavours that you already have.
Whether you use it as a saline solution (see below) or perhaps add it to your simple syrup (30mL of kosher salt per 6-litre batch of rich simple syrup . Want a smaller amount? Well, do the math people …), it plays beautifully in the mix to turn flavours either up or down.
Our palates can detect five different flavours: salt, sour, sweet, bitter and umami. Depending on the drink, a low concentration salt actually helps to control or reduce bitter flavours, but amplifies sweet and sour.
If we were more scientific, we might say that salt blocks the palate’s ability to sense the bitterness, making sweetness or sourness more perceptible. But where’re not …
Salt Of The Earth
What we will say is that the effect that salt has on a drink will ultimately depend on the other ingredients it’s joined with.
In other words, citrus becomes brighter, drinks with egg white become more aromatic and drinks topped with sparkling wine get a bit sharper.
In stirred drinks, Salt has an interesting automatic quality. It free up the aromatic molecules, which can then be released into the air once the drink is stirred. Ultimately this makes both the aroma quality and the flavour of the cocktail more available.
In long drinks, the combination of salt and carbonation, means that you can achieve double the impact with flavour. Basically, carbonation and salt both act as flavour centres, controlling how flavour hits your taste buds.
In shaken drinks, Salt of course brightens the citrus, but if added to drinks sheen with egg white, the flavour gets compounded as the Salt gives structure to the whites themselves.
Just be aware before you salt a cocktail, you should bear in mind, just like with any other kind of seasoning you’re doing, quantity matters. Too much salt actually dulls acidity.
Yet if used well, Salt can temper some of the bitterness in a Negroni, play up the citrus in a Daiquiri, surprise some f the bittiness of of the Tonic in a G&T but also increase the ‘panky’ between you and your cocktail in a Hanky Panky.
Take With A Grain Of Salt
Now this is a saline solution we found in the new book The Book Of Vermouth, they talk about dissolving 20 per cent by weight of good-quality Sea Salt flakes to every 3.5 oz of water.
What does that mean?
Well 0.75 oz of salt to 3.5ox of water (sometimes we do the math fro you …) Best to store it in the fridge and he authors recommend that you add it, drop by drop, to cocktails until you get the flavour just right.
They also recommend a recipe that might be fun to experiment with to see the effect that salt can really have on your drinks.
Inverse Clover Club
- 1.25 oz Dry Vermouth
- 0.75 oz Shiraz Gin (as produced by Four Pillars)
- 0.75 0x Lemon Juice
- 0.25 Rich SimpleSyrup (2:1)
- 4 Raspberries
- Egg White
- dash of Saline Solution
Combine all ingredients without ice in a cocktail shaker and shake. Add ice and shake again, before straining into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with Raspberries