Ever been prepping for taco night and wondered what kind of salt is best for a margarita? Keep reading to learn the best margarita salt recipe and how to rim a glass properly.
The best margarita salt
Picture this. It’s taco night and you’re in charge of the margs.
Chances are you have at least one type of salt in your pantry. But is it the right kind?
There are dozens of types of salt — not to mention varying size grains, added flavors and the tendency to dissolve when wet — and all of that makes a difference when it comes to the rim of a classic margarita!
Who knew rimming a cocktail could be so complicated? But I promise you, it’s not that complicated once you know the right kind of salt to use.
Why do margaritas have salt rims?
It’s a good question, and the answer has everything to do with anatomy. The tongue has five receptors of taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory (AKA umami).
With lime juice as their main ingredient, margaritas are sweet and sour by nature, thanks to orange liqueur, sour mix and/or simple syrup.
Adding a bit of salt to the rim helps to cut the sourness and sweetness, resulting in a brighter cocktail with flavors that pop. Salt also helps to tamp down any bitterness that might come in from the tequila and/or rind or zest of the lime. (That’s why salt is part of the tequila shot ritual, too!)
Adding salt is a method that many craft bartenders use. A saline solution, AKA salt water, can be added to many cocktails to help balance the flavors.
There are more sensations than just taste that help us to enjoy our margaritas. Smell, appearance and texture are big ones. The texture of salt (or sugar) on the rim is without a doubt a big part of the margarita experience!
Temperature is another important factor. No one likes a warm cocktail! But would you like yours on the rocks or frozen?
Salt vs. sugar for margaritas
Most bartenders and servers will ask you if you’d like salt or sugar on the rim of your margarita.
Salt is the traditional choice, especially given that it helps to complement the flavors of the cocktail.
However, some people are sensitive to lots of salt on the rim of a margarita and would prefer either a sugar rim or no rim at all.
A sugar rim makes for a much sweeter experience and can work well with other drinks as well. For example, a cinnamon sugar rim is common on fall- and winter-season beers to enhance some of the flavors.
With nothing on the rim, you can sample the cocktail in its most pure form.
Another option is to use a flavored salt, such as Tajìn Clásico, which is a chile-lime seasoning, or something like zesty orange sea salt.
Types of salt
There are a number of types of salt out there, but they’re not all the same for the salted rim of a cocktail. They vary widely in origin, production process, color, texture, shape, size, smell and taste.
Here are a few of the top types:
Table salt — When people think of salt, this is usually the kind they’re thinking of. It’s probably in your kitchen salt shaker right now! Table salt is produced by mining or by evaporation. After that, it’s purified of trace minerals and potassium iodide and caking agents are added to prevent clumping.
Kosher salt — This is the one you see in baking recipes a lot. Its name comes from the fact that it’s used to cure meats in Jewish delis. It doesn’t contain additives, so it tastes purer and pairs well with other ingredients. Its crystals are larger and dissolve easily, but not as quickly as table salt.
Sea salt — Sea salt is produced by the evaporation of seawater. Its mineral makeup depends widely based on the geographical area where the salt is produced. Sometimes it comes in larger grains (like what you’d find in body scrubs) or flakes/flecks called fleur de sel (like you’d sprinkle on top of chocolate chip cookies).
And that’s just to name a few… There’s also:
- pink salt, or Himalayan salt, which has a lovely pink color.
- gray salt, or sel gris, which is harvested from clay-lined pools and has a gray tint.
- black lava salt, which comes from the evaporation of saltwater on hardened lava floors.
- flavored salt, such as smoked salt that is flavored by cold-smoking wood or salt that is mixed with other ingredients such as citrus zest, herbs or spices.
The best margarita salt recipe
The salted (or sugared) rim of a margarita is an essential part of the recipe. As such, the type of salt you use for your margaritas matters!
For your margaritas, you definitely do not want to use table salt! The iodide and other additives in it give the rim of your glass too much salty flavor. Plus, it dissolves easily.
Coarse salts like kosher salt or sea salt will work much better, but keep in mind that you don’t want a grain that’s too coarse. The flecks will be too large.
If you do wind up with a thicker grain, you can put the salt in a food processor and pulse it until it is the texture you desire.
You can also buy margarita salt at the store that is labeled and marketing for cocktails, but why buy that when you can find the salt you need for cheaper in the baking aisle?
When I have extra time on my hands, I like to combine sea salt with lime zest because it packs extra lime flavor into every sip. (See recipe at the end of this post for details.)
Types of cocktail rims
It’s important to note there are two types of rims:
- The Lip, in which salt is balanced in a fine layer on the very tip-top of the glass’s edge. This one is best for drinks served without ice cubes, as the salt can very easily make its way into the drink (and distort the flavor in the process). You’ll want to hold the glass upside down and rotate it gently in the salt to coat the lip.
- The Band, in which the salt forms a thick belt around the outer edge of the glass. This one is preferred for drinks served on the rocks. You’ll want to roll the outer edge in the salt to create a band on the outside of your margarita glass.
Depending on how you’re serving your margarita, you should decide if you want to make a lip rim or a banded rim. You also have the option to just rim half — restaurants do this a lot to let the guest choose between sweet and salty sips.
How to rim a margarita
You’ve probably seen those three-tier plastic margarita rimmers that bartenders use. There’s a layer for a sponge that’s soaked with lime juice (and probably never cleaned). The other tiers are for sugar and salt.
That way is not only a bit gross but also a shortcut. The way I’m about to teach you is much better. It seems like more steps, but it’s actually the easiest way to a perfect rim.
Here’s how to rim a cocktail:
- Pour your salt onto a small plate or shallow, small bowl. Shake it so that forms an even layer on the plate, without any mounds.
- Hold a lime wedge in one hand and your glass in the other. Use the lime wedge to moisten the top and outer lip of the glass. A thin layer of fresh lime juice is all you need.
- Then, we’ll either dip or roll the rim of each glass in salt or sugar.
- Tap the glass to dislodge any excess.
Then you can empty your cocktail shaker into the rimmed glass and toast to all your friends with your perfectly rimmed cocktail.
Tips for success
Here are a few dos and don’ts for rimming our cocktails.
- Use freshly cut citrus to wet the rim of the glass. If no lime, use lemon or orange. The fresh juices help the sugar and salt stick to the rims of the glasses without dissolving right away.
- Only use honey or simple syrup for sweet rims, like sprinkles or lavender sugar.
- Make sure your glassware is dry before rimming it. Any leftover moisture can pick up extra flecks of salt and sugar.
- Be precise when applying the citrus wedge. Any areas touched by the moisture will get coated in salt and sugar; any areas not coated will be devoid of it.
- Do your best to keep salt and sugar away from the interior of the cocktail glass. A proper rim should have the grains on the top lip of the glass or a band on the outside of the glass.
Margarita salt blends
Change up your salt mixture with flavorful add-ins to jazz up your next margarita. These mixtures are extra fun for special occasions.
Salt and pepper
For a little zing of spice, add ½ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper to ¼ cup salt. Bonus: Make it with spicy jalapeño tequila for a spicy margarita.
Chile lime seasoning
Make your own version of Tajìn seasoning and mix salt with paprika, lime zest, cumin, garlic powder and sugar. It adds a pop of color to a mezcal margarita.
Grapefruit zest and chile powder
Try this one on the classic paloma or a salty dog. For ¼ cup salt, add the zest of ½ of a grapefruit and ½ teaspoon chipotle powder. A little chili powder will go a long way in this zesty garnish.
Bloody Mary salt
This one isn’t just for Bloody Marias and Micheladas! Try Bloody Mary salt it on a margarita to add a bit of umami flavor.
Lime sea salt
My favorite for a margarita is lime-flavored sea salt made with citrus zest. I’ve included my recipe below — scroll down!
If you’re looking for a margarita recipe to try out these salt rimmers with, check out these recipes below. Make them for Taco Tuesday, girls’ night, Cinco de Mayo or any time you’re craving a delicious margarita!
— Did you make this recipe? —
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Forget the store-bought stuff. Make your own margarita salt any time!
- ½ cup sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 lime, zested (approx. 2 teaspoons)
- 1 lime wedge
For the margarita salt
- In a small bowl, combine salt and lime zest. Using clean hands, mix with your fingertips until the salt is fragrant.
- Store in an airtight container for up to one week, but it will taste best the day it is made.
To rim a cocktail with salt:
- Pour salt onto a small plate.
- Hold a lime wedge in one hand and a glass in the other. Use the lime wedge to moisten the top and outer lip of the glass. A thin layer of fresh lime juice is all you need.
- For a traditional rim on the lip of the glass (best for drinks without ice): Hold the glass upside down and lightly place it into the salt. Twist the glass gently to coat the rim. The salt should rest on top of the lip.
- For a banded rim on the outer edge of the glass (best for drinks with ice): Roll the lip of the glass in the salt to form an even belt of salt around the outer rim of the glass.
- Tap the glass to dislodge any excess.
The amount of zest you can get varies depending on the size of your limes. On average, a regular lime will make 2 teaspoons of zest.
Feel free to substitute grapefruit zest, orange zest or lemon zest in this recipe. See post for other variations.
Make sure your glassware is dry before rimming it. Any leftover moisture can pick up extra flacks of salt and sugar.
Use freshly cut citrus to moisten the rim of the glass. If no lime, use lemon or orange. The fresh juices help the sugar and salt stick to the rims of the glasses without dissolving right away.
Be precise when applying the citrus wedge. Any areas touched by the moisture will get coated in salt and sugar; any areas not coated will be devoid of it.
Do your best to keep salt and sugar away from the interior of the cocktail glass. A proper rim should have the grains on the top lip of the glass or a band on the outside of the glass.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 3Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9484mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
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