You’re Doing It All Wrong: Rimming Your Cocktail Glass

Yesterday Alex Ott went to a bar in New York City and saw a guy rim his glass totally wrong. Ott wanted to say to the bartender, "Stop what you're doing; there's an easier way to do it." He didn't.

But he'll tell us now.

Kola House

"Once you do it right, it's an art form. It's a garnish and the billboard of the cocktail," says Ott, resident alchemist for Kola House in New York City's Meatpacking District. "When people look at the rim, they should immediately realize this is an ingredient in the actual cocktail. If not, it confuses people."

Born in Germany, Ott grew up traveling the globe and later earned a degree in biochemistry. He was a bartender at Sushi Samba's outposts in its Sex and the City (even appearing in the HBO show as himself) heyday, and in 2013, Ott authored a healthy drinks book, Dr. Cocktail.

Amazon

These days, he's a cocktail consultant, creating more than 300 drink menus for award shows, charities, and restaurants including NYC's The Refinery and most recently, Kola House. Ott is known for distilling his homeopathic and flavor-pairing expertise into mood-altering cocktails that engage the olfactory senses as well as the tastebuds.

He's been called a cocktail magician, sorcerer, and mad scientist. He'll concoct a rimming garnish on your cocktail glass to conjure childhood memories or inspire carnal urges. Anyone can do it, if you do it right, Ott says. But so many people do it wrong, even many professionals.

"Rimming is a very big mess when it comes to restaurants and kitchens," he says. "It's really important because it's the first thing you taste, and it should look good too."

#1 Way You're Doing It Wrong

People usually use a liquid that's too liquid-y and not sticky and viscous enough.

Right Way: Use something thicker, so it doesn't run down the sides of the glass. Ott prefers liquified honeys (one part honey to one part hot water) and fruit juices. The liquid base could even be strong, like Tabasco hot sauce thickened with sugar, or barbecue sauce. "There are some crazy flavor profiles out there," Ott says. (He'd know, being the creator of some of them.) If you're topping the liquid with Pop Rocks, make sure the liquid is extra thick, so the rocks don't pop and become slush before hitting your mouth.

#2 Way You're Doing It Wrong

Don't spin or roll the glass around in the dish of liquid and then the dish of salts, sugars, spices, or herbs. " Rolling around the saucer will make it messy," he says. Don't use a saucer.

Right Way: "You barely dip it in there and take it out," Ott says. "The quicker you do it, the better it is." Like ⅓ -of-a-second-quickly. Then you'll have a really, really beautiful rim with salt or whatever you choose to use." A little cereal bowl is the safest way to do it; make sure it's at least 1/4-inch deep and even.

#3 Way You're Doing It Wrong

Using fine salt is often the wrong way to go. People think magaritas with coarse salt will be too salty, but the opposite is true. The finer the grain, the faster it absorbs on your tongue and the flavor hits you. "You don't want people to be searching the glass for the part with the least salt," Ott says.

Right Way: Unless you're going for a bracing saltiness, use a courser grain of salt. And of course, experiment with flavored salts or flavor it yourself with your own spices. Use evaporated cane sugar, the kind that's big and brown, rather than white granulated sugar, unless you want to create a color gradation by dipping the glass (rimmed in a vividly-colored, viscous liquid) deeply into a deeper well of sugar.

Rimming Powders: Besides the basic salt and sugar, you can use anything almost. He uses a lot of dried hibiscus tea; ancho chili powder with sea salt and dried cactus, which is a little tangy, not too spicy; cinnamon-sugar. " Crush it up in the mortar. What you use is up to you; it's purely a creative process," Ott says. "If you have a spice rack, you have everything you need."

Winter Holiday Ideas: Ott recommends using milk or condensed milk and sugar for the viscous liquid and afterwards, gingerbread spice, apple spice, mulling spice for pumpkin cakes, or spice mix for warm apple cider drinks. For the drink below the rim, try it with an Alexander cocktail (cognac, chocolate liqueur, and light cream), Irish coffee, hot cocoa, or any hot drink that sounds good to you.

You could use some of our tiny candy or crushed candy cane ideas in our Peppermint Cocktails to Bring Holiday Cheer gallery.

A Beautiful Mess

An easy, yet festive idea for New Year's Eve is our Cherry Sugar Fizz.

Chowhound

The glass is first dipped in cherry juice, then sugar, before you drop in a couple cherries and pour in some sparkling wine. Get our Cherry Sugar Fizz recipe.

Consider our Copa Verde any time of year.

Chowhound

In this cocktail, you dip the glass in agave nectar and then salt mixed with fresh thyme. Get our Cope Verde recipe.

And then you can go tropical, like rimming a glass with thickened banana juice and topping it with coconut flakes, Ott says. Hibiscus tea is Ott's favorite scent to add complexity to a margarita's flavor profile.

"You want to bring a lot of flavor molecules out into the air for the olfactory senses," Ott says. "You could have a cocktail on top of a cocktail, or a cocktail on the glass with just water in the glass. There's no limit to mixing."

 

Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.

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