Bartenders often add dashes of salt to cocktails for the same reason a pastry chef would never skip it in a chocolate cake batter. It just bolsters flavor.
The add is not meant to be enough to actually make a drink taste salty. “Salt is a key ingredient when you’re trying to create something with depth,” said Dorothy Elizabeth, a bar manager at Mr Lyan, a bar group with locations in London, Amsterdam, and Washington. “Sodium ions block bitter flavors, emphasize sweetness, and create really nice depth and dimension.”
“Salt is a key ingredient when you’re trying to create something with depth.”
If you’re new to seasoning your cocktails, start by adding a pinch to a drink that leans bitter, such as a Negroni or Campari. You’re able to round out and create richer, fuller flavors without necessarily modifying anything. Another drink that greatly benefits is one that contains fresh citrus, like the margarita. Just as salt dampens the bitterness in a Negroni, it intensifies the palate’s ability to sense sweet and sour notes. Add it to heighten the flavors in your next sidecar, caipirinha or gimlet.
Combined with a pinch of salt, manzanilla amplifies and brightens the lime, rounds tequila’s edge and allows this margarita to go down that much more smoothly.
As for salt type, flaky sea salts work well to balance and brighten without overwhelming. A pinch is enough to shift and enhance the flavor profiles of your cocktail. Begin with restraint and add a few flakes later if needed.
Excerpts from New York Times Feb. 7, 2020 by Rebekah Peppler
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