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Cocktails

How to Use MSG in Cocktails

June 20, 2023

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Lizzie Munro

Cocktails

How to Use MSG in Cocktails

June 20, 2023

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Lizzie Munro

An easy-to-make solution brings umami flavor to Martinis, Margaritas, highballs and more.

Between citric and malic acids, milk powder and Campari dust, experimental bartenders have developed an arsenal of more than a few science-y concoctions. The latest of the bunch is much simpler, and may already be in your kitchen: MSG. Once a novel seasoning used to amplify savoriness in drinks like dirty Martinis, it can be either the star of the show, as in the MSG Martini, or a hardworking ingredient in the background, capable of rounding out a drink’s taste and texture with just a dash.

MSG Martini Cocktail
Recipes

MSG Martini

A twist on a classic dirty Martini.

Banana Margarita
Recipes

Banana Hammock

A couple dashes of MSG solution round out this layered take on the tequila classic.

Master Bandit Cocktail Cote
Recipes

Master Bandit

Soju meets gin and lemongrass.

Unlike salt, where a pinch can be added directly to the shaker, MSG works best as a 50 percent solution (two parts water to one part MSG). This is the method used in the Banana Hammock, from Baltimore’s Lane Harlan, where its tinge of umami and viscous texture acts as a bridge between a host of unexpected Margarita ingredients, from banana liqueur to pimento dram. In the Master Bandit, a savory spin on the Gimlet from Cote in New York, meanwhile, a dash of the solution alongside lemongrass and bay leaf is an ideal pairing for the Korean steakhouse’s menu, and presents a through line in flavors from the bar and kitchen. In the Best Life, MSG solution adds balance to a mix of earthy tequila, bittersweet Campari and a grapefruit-guava cordial.

But MSG can be used to add complexity to simpler cocktails, too; as in cooking, consider the solution as a way to season your cocktail. Amplify already savory drinks like a Dirty Martini Highball, add a pop of flavor to stirred drinks like the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned or give vegetal notes, like those in the Margarita Verde, a boost. Just make sure to factor in more than just one round. As Channing Centeno, creator of the MSG Martini, says, MSG is “one of those things that makes you want to go back for more.”

Try it in:
martini highball cocktail recipe
Recipes

Dirty Martini Highball

A tall rendition of a dirty Martini that turns drinking dictums on their head.

Recipes

Leanne Favre’s Oaxaca Old-Fashioned

A winning take on the modern classic adds dimension with two reposado tequilas and saline solution.

margarita verde cocktail recipe
Recipes

Margarita Verde

Tequila turbocharged with housemade “garden cordial.”

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