You’d never forget the salt if you were doing tequila shots, would you? It’s right there in the instructions, first in the list: lick, sip, suck. You lick the salt, drink the tequila, then suck on a lime wedge. Yet when it comes time to wed these elements in a margarita cocktail (or mocktail), a lot of people don’t bother with the salt on the rim of the glass, believing it to be a needless extra step that’s purely for show. I’m here to tell you how wrong those people are.
It might seem like a lot of fuss to delicately apply salt to the rim of each glass before imbibing, but it really is integral to the original margarita recipe. Both tequila and orange liqueur have strong bitter notes that can easily overwhelm every other flavor that surrounds them. Salt interferes with the way our taste buds process bitterness, so by adding touch of it to every sip, additional flavors are able to shine through in the drink. Meanwhile, in a booze-free margarita, the substitutions for the tequila and orange liqueur tend to be overly sweet, so a hit of salt in each sip will distract from the more syrupy notes. In short, without salt, a margarita has no chance of tasting like a margarita, so take the time to prep your glass properly.
Because of its coarse texture and excellent ability to stick to things, the best salt to use to rim a margarita is good ol’ dependable kosher salt. Grab the smallest bowl you have that the top of your glass can fit into, then pour in a tablespoon or so of salt—no need to measure.
Wet about 1/8" of the top of your glass with either cold tap water or a small piece of fresh lime. Tilt the bowl so that all the salt gathers on one side, insert the glass, and slowly rotate.
Ta-da! you did it!