Our faithful imbiber offers flavorful reasons to spend more time with a drink than in the drink
With a little study into the language of surfing, it quickly becomes apparent that this sport is no cocktail party.
A “haymaker” is not an ingenious cocktail, but a really rough, rogue wall of water. “Cactus-juiced” has nothing to do with exotic ingredients, but refers to an injurious surfing accident. Even the innocent Neptune’s Cocktail refers to getting a belly full of seawater after a particularly gnarly wipeout.
So while any romance with surfing might be over, everyone knows the advice about what to do when life hands out lemons. In this case, when the sea shovels you salt, have a drink.
There has long been an argument about whether salt enhances a drink or whether it enhances the ability to taste a drink. But one thing a growing number of bartenders and mixologists across the country agree on, is that salt makes a better drinking experience.
Just as bakers and candy makers learned how a pinch of salt can give an ordinary piece of chocolate an over-the-top wow factor, and cheese makers know the salt crystals in ripened cheese often determine the greatness of the final product, drink makers have discovered that a bit of salt in or around a cocktail can do magical things to the mixture.
Salt blocks bitterness, and because bitterness blocks sweetness, the sweetness suddenly comes to the surface. Try a pinch in any bitter aperitif, and see what happens.
Just a tiny bit stirred into a citrus drink can light up the citrus flavors, heightening acidity without adding saltiness. Add a pinch to Campari, for example, and suddenly, a sweeter flavor emerges from the traditional bitterness. Salt works a similar magic on sour drinks, hiding any bitterness and sparking up the sour flavors.
Salt also works magic with a person’s taste buds. Just the presence of salt, even if there’s no taste of it, increases saliva, which increases the tasting experience.
In the beginning, drink mixers mostly limited themselves to plain bowls of salt to rim the glasses of certain drinks. The lovely margarita comes first to mind. It looked good on the glass and the presence of the salt did its job with the citrus in the drink. Other mixologists began experimenting by adding salt directly into the drink itself, using just a few drops of a saline solution, much as they did with bitters. Subtle, but it was a game changer.
The cocktail salt market in recent years has exploded, following on the heels of the demand for exotic salts to be used in foods that swept the country a decade ago. Not only are there salts from around the world with all the varying characteristics, mixologists and salt producers also are combining salts with herbs, spices and other flavors to add to the fervor.
For example, at Fish Tales, 2502 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston, General Manager Brett Otteman has been watching the salt movement and has gotten involved.
“Flavored salts are starting to be used as mainstream garnishes all over the world, so here at Fish Tales, we decided to see what we could come up with,” Otteman said.
Subtle was not on the agenda, since, well, this is Texas. The crew at Fish Tales began with regular kosher salt and then started adding to it, Otteman said. The additions included crushed cayenne pepper, celery seed, dill weed, cracked black pepper, garlic powder, mustard powder, thyme powder, ground coriander, allspice and cloves.
The resulting mixture is used to rim the glass of an equally bold drink, called a Crawfish Mary. The salt also is sprinkled on the crawfish, which are included in the drink.
Salt producers haven’t ignored this new trend behind the bar, either.
The Bitterman Salt Co. in Portland, Ore., sells sets of cocktail salts, which it suggests adding directly into cocktails from martinis to Manhattans, as well as into straight-up bolder drinks like bourbon and Scotch.
Another company, Sel Magique in New York, imports salt from Brittany, France, and has created a line of cocktail salts that takes its basic sea salt blend and adds specific ingredients to match targeted cocktails. One kit, which offers salts for just about every cocktail imaginable, sells for $460. It adds new meaning to “worth your salt.”
For those wanting to experiment with flavored salts, but not sure where to begin, Otteman offers a simple solution: “Just use 50/50 kosher salt and your favorite store-bought crawfish spice from Maceo’s in Galveston,” he said.
This works easily as well with barbecue rubs and spice mixtures.
So surfers, go find your wave. Go in search of your redonculous ride. Go blow out your squeaker. Go nurse your sand facial. Life is more attractive with a drink, rather that in it, and those are even better with the salt of the Earth, as opposed to where you’re getting it.
Fish Tales Crawfish Mary
1 wedge of lime
2.5 ounces of Tito’s Handmade Vodka
¾ cup of tomato juice
1 ounce of beef bouillon
½ ounce of Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of Tabasco
1/8 teaspoon of juice of lemon
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon of horseradish for extra kick
Flavored salt for rimming (recipe follows)
¼ cooked corn on the cob
1 celery rib
1 green onion, root removed
2 ounces, peeled, cooked crawfish tails
1 whole, boiled crawfish for decoration
Pour about ¼ cup flavored salt into a large bowl. Rim a 21-ounce glass with a cut lime to wet edge. Dip in salt to coat rim. Add ice to the glass.
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake. Pour into glass over ice.
Garnish with spear of ¼ cooked corn cob, 1 celery rib and 1 green onion, root removed and 1 boiled live crawfish for decoration. Toss 2 ounces of peeled, cooked crawfish tails in salt seasoning and place in glass on top of floating ice.
Fish Tales Flavored Salt
1 cup kosher salt or coarse, ground sea salt
1 teaspoon crushed cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
½ teaspoon dill weed
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
Thoroughly mix all the ingredients. Store in an airtight container.