A hint of saline can lend a backbone to a number of different drinks, tempering bitterness and accenting fresh fruit flavors, which is why it’s no surprise that the salted rim has become a practically essential component in drinks like the Margarita and the Michelada.
Adaptable as these drinks are, so too is the classic salted rim, which can almost always benefit from a little extra attention. Here, Brooklyn-based chef Kathryn Peetz gives salt the culinary treatment, calling on both highbrow and lowbrow ingredients—fennel fronds, black limes, freeze-dried mangos and taco seasoning—for five distinct salt garnishes that can elevate a wide variety of drinks, both sweet and savory. And they’re pretty, to boot.
It’s worth noting that, when making your salt mix of choice, you’ll want to use a coffee grinder or a dedicated spice grinder to pulverize the dried ingredients into a powder. (To clean the grinder, add in a handful of uncooked rice and buzz it to pulverize. Then, discard the rice grounds and wipe the grinder clean with a paper towel.) As for serving size, each of the recipes below yields about a quarter-cup of salt mix but can easily be doubled.
Black Lime and Strawberry
Freeze-dried strawberries lend sweetness and color to this salt, but much of its flavor comes from small, wrinkly Persian black limes, which are soaked in brine and dried in the sun for a uniquely floral, funky and sour punch.
Separately grind the freeze-dried strawberries and black lime in a spice grinder, wiping the machine clean after each use. Stir together with the salt and sugar in a small bowl.
Grapefruit, Fennel and Habanero
A bittersweet combination of grapefruit and fennel gets a dose of habanero heat.
2 packed tablespoons fennel fronds, finely chopped (from 1 fennel stem)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons grapefruit zest (from 1 grapefruit)
½ teaspoon minced habanero pepper (from ¼ habanero)
Stir together ingredients in a small bowl.
Toasting the mild pulla chili pepper unleashes a charred, fruity flavor that falls into perfect harmony when paired with mango, coconut and lime.
1 pulla or guajillo chili
3 tablespoons sweetened, toasted coconut chips (such as Dang or Bare)
2 tablespoons crushed freeze-dried mango
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked salt
1 teaspoon lime zest (from 1 lime)
Toast the chili in a small sauté pan over medium heat, turning occasionally until lightly charred, 3 minutes. De-stem and de-seed the chili, and add to the spice grinder along with the coconut and mango. Pulse to grind into a powder. Stir together with the salts and lime zest.
Look no further than your neighborhood corner store to create a semi-authentic, Tex-Mex-inspired salt mix.
½ cup plantain chips, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons taco seasoning (such as Ortega or McCormick)
Working in two batches, grind the plantain chips in a spice grinder. Stir together with the salt and taco seasoning in a small bowl.
Corn nuts, a popular snack throughout Central and South America, meet cinnamon and cocoa powder for a crunchy, salty riff on a south-of-the-border-style hot chocolate.
3 tablespoons toasted corn nuts
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
Grind the corn nuts in a spice grinder. Stir together with the salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder in a small bowl.