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A custom made Margarita Salt turns an ordinary drink into a handcrafted cocktail masterpiece, and it might give you a certain reputation for knowing a thing or two about mixology. This easy cocktail salt is just the thing for next-level Margaritas, Palomas, and Salty Dogs.
Let’s talk salt. How many times have you ordered a Margarita, only to get a drink with a haphazardly-made salt rim? Maybe it’s non-existent in places, thick in others, with a teaspoon or more of salt sloshing around in the bottom of the glass, ruining your drink?
Today, I’m going to get specific with salt. By the end of this Margarita salt recipe, I guarantee you that you’re never going to buy store-bought Margarita salt ever again. This recipe is better and costs pennies.
Making Margarita Salt to give as holiday gifts? That’s so smart! Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Why salt the rim of a Margarita?
Salt intensifies the sweet and sour flavors of the triple sec, Cointreau, and lime juice in a Margarita. Also, salt tempers any bitterness, which in turn makes sweetness and sourness seem brighter, and the drink all the more delectable.
A salted rim is a particularly good option for cocktails that have a fair amount of citrusy flavors going on; think lime, lemon, grapefruit, and pomelo.
But a salted rim that’s tailor made just for you makes a great callback for all those flavors. Your guests will lick their lips, trying to figure out your delicious secret. The rim of their glass is salty and sweet, and oh, so flavorful with every sip. When they come to you for another round, they’ll probably ask you where you got that salt.
How to make Margarita Salt:
- First, zest a lime and an orange.
- Then spread the zest out on a baking sheet (a sheet of parchment works well to catch everything) and bake the zest at 300 degrees for about 5 minutes, just enough to dry out the zest. It will continue to dry as it cools. Give it about 20 minutes.
- Mix the dried zest with equal parts Kosher salt and sugar, and store in jars until your next party.
Once you’ve mastered the recipe, feel free to get creative. Add a pinch of chili powder to your cocktail salt for a spicy kick.
I’ve also liked using crystallized lime, an all natural, fresh-tasting lime powder that lime fanatics swear by. So far, I can only find it online, but it comes in shakers or little single-serving packets, which is really useful when you’ve accidentally used up all the limes making sour mix.
As far as sugar, white table sugar is perfectly fine. Some mixmasters use an unrefined turbinado sugar for a touch of color and a deeper flavor… just a thought!
Using a smoked salt in place of some of the salt may be a nice way to add a little more depth to mezcal cocktails, too. There’s no limit to how you can adjust your Margarita Salt for all your liquid endeavors.
What kind of salt for a Margarita?
I’ll start out by saying: whatever you do, please don’t use iodized table salt. It has a distinctly chemical flavor and is quite a bit “saltier” than other salts you could choose. Morton’s or Diamond Crystal brand Kosher salt are both good choices, but you can get fancy with it, too, and use a sea salt or an even fancier finishing salt like Maldon.
What cocktails have a salted rim?
- Margarita: the classic cocktail on the rocks or shaken and served up, made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec, Cointreau, or even Grand Marnier. A Margarita without salt is perfectly okay, too.
- Salty Dog: A super refreshing cocktail made with vodka or gin and grapefruit juice—also comes garnished with a salted rim.
- Sidecar: Don’t limit this salt just for Margs! This classic brandy-or cognac-based cocktail is made with triple sec, and lots of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Traditionally served with a sugar rim, this half sweet-salt mix would be delicious, too.v
- Margarita Slush: The same delicious classic Margarita flavors you know and love made in an ice cream tub. Need I say more?
How to Rim a Cocktail Glass for Margaritas
- First, fill a shallow saucer or margarita salt dish with 1/4” or thereabouts of salt. The dish has to be at least as wide as your cocktail glass.
- Next, take a fresh lime wedge and gently slide it along the rim of the glass.
- Finally, tilt the glass and dip just the outside edge of the glass as you rotate it, keeping it tipped. This prevents too much salt from spilling into your drink, and ruining your cocktail.
- Shake off any loose grains of salt back into the saucer. You can make a bunch of glasses ahead of time and let them dry; the lime juice will hold the salt firmly in place.
Cheers! May all your hours be happy, and may all your glasses be perfectly salted.
- 2 tablespoons lime zest freshly grated, about 3 medium limes
- 2 tablespoons orange zest freshly grated, about 1 medium orange
- 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the lime zest and orange zest on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Stir the zest and continue to bake until it is dry to the touch, about 5 minutes move. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the zest to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, combine the salt and sugar. Add the zests and stir until evenly distributed. Divide the salt mixture between 2 (4-ounce) jars with tight-fitting lids. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.