As a bartender scattered kosher salt on the top surface of a lemony gin sour at an event recently, a waiting patron gasped. "What is that?" she said. "Sugar?"
Nope. It was salt, and I didn't bat an eye, because lately I've been seeing a ton of salted cocktails coming from the country's top bartenders. And I'm not talking about salt in Bloody Marys or other naturally savory drinks, either—I mean juicy, fresh, slightly-sweet cocktails like classic sours and aperitifs, with a pinch of salt or a few drops of saline solution. Sure, folks have salted the rims of their margaritas forever, but salt has now moved into the cocktail glass.
The thinking isn't new here—we've been seeing salted caramels and brownies more and more frequently in the past few years, and there have always been those who insist on a sprinkle of salt on their cantaloupe or watermelon to punch up the flavor. Some suggest that salt balances the bitterness in a solution, thus amping up your perception of sweetness when you taste the combination.
So far, I've especially enjoyed judiciously salted Campari and Aperol drinks, as well as a number of tart grapefruit and lime-based cocktails with a pinch of salt shaken in. Have you tried adding a pinch of salt to your favorite drinks? What did you think?