Bartenders' latest secret ingredient

Cucumber gin salt and pepper cups

Salt is not new to the repetoire of cocktails, but the salt is now moving from the rim into the glass. Mixologists are discovering something chefs have known forever: adding a little salt helps bring out the flavors of other ingredients. "You salt your food, so why not your drinks?" says Morgan Schick of Trick Dog in San Francisco.

One feature of salt is its ability to balance bitter flavors. This coincides nicely with the surge in drinks featuring bitter Italian liqueurs like Cynar and Campari, whose bitterness can be tempered with a pinch of salt. But its uses are not limited to this balancing act. Duggan McDonnell of Cantina in San Francisco "adds a pinch of salt to every bucket-sized container of fruit-flavored simple syrup to give it a little flavor push."

While some bars are adding salt to many of their drinks on the sly, others are drawing attention to the practice, adding salted cocktail sections to their menu. Singer Social Club in Reno, Nevada, is one such venue. Cocktails featuring salt are highlighted on the menu, like a rum drink with salted strawberry-lemon-lime soda. Says bar manager Jameson Alexander: "I use salt or saline to enhance flavors that are falling flat, and to keep the guest taking sips."

Bartenders are also using salt to complement herbaceous flavors. David Kupchinsky of The Eveleigh in West Hollywood, California, uses a few drops of sodium solution in garden-inspired cocktails like The Song of Solomon, which incorporates Cynar, dry vermouth and celery bitters. "The salt adds a nice subtle brininess that complements the celery, artichoke (from the Cynar), and the herbs from the vermouth," he says.

Photo of Cucumber gin salt and pepper cups from indexed blog Joy the Baker

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