To food scientists and gourmands alike, this is going to come as nothing new—salt works wonders when it comes to enhancing flavors in meals. It helps to bring other flavors to the forefront while working to suppress others. You probably already see where this is going. You can use salt to do the same things in your cocktails—rocketing their flavors to new levels of awesome with this tiny touch.
You heard me, right. Salt. Sal, sale, sel. Whatever you call it, use it.
Salt, when added to other ingredients, has been proven to suppress bitter flavors while bringing into sharper focus sweet and sour flavors. (Check out this Science Focus piece for more information on why it does.) It has also been shown to increase saliva production, which helps in creating mouthfeel for food and drink.
In cocktails, this means that using salt or saline solution will dramatically change how your cocktails that use bitters taste (think of the Angostura bitters in a Manhattan or the citrus in a Margarita). By adding just a few grains of salt or, better yet, a few drops of saline solution, a flavor profile that would otherwise not be present appears in your drink. It may not work in every drink, but just like in cooking, experiment a little and you’ll find out soon enough when it does and doesn’t.
Trying to convince someone that they should be drinking a certain cocktail, but it’s too bitter? It won’t be exactly the same, but add some salt and take those baby steps to proving you’re right. Know your gal like sweeter cocktails, but you refuse to keep sweet tart flavored vodka in your house? I think you can see where this is going.
Still don’t believe me? Try this simple cocktail made with Cynar, an artichoke-flavored liqueur:
3 oz. Cynar
3-4 drops saline solution
Method: Pour Cynar over ice, add salt solution and stir.