Straight Up: How to Rim a Cocktail Glass for Margaritas - and More

It's a beautiful warm day, perfect for the cooling tang of a Margarita. You have everything you need to make a top-shelf, hand-crafted drink: fresh limes for juicing, Cointreau, a good quality “silver” tequila, and, of course, some ice. There’s just one last small but crucial detail: salt for the rim of the glass. Here’s how to get it right.

More than just a decorative flourish, salt adds a flavorful grace note to the liquid ingredients in a Margarita, balancing out the orangey sweetness of the Triple Sec (in our ideal scenario, Cointreau), the tartness of the lime juice, and the heady warmth of the tequila. Trick is, you want to enjoy the salty taste and deliciously coarse texture briefly with each sip without it completely overwhelming - and spoiling - your drink.

Not to worry. It’s all in the (very easy) technique:

Setting the Stage
First, fill a saucer with a quarter of an inch or so of kosher (not iodized table) salt. Next, moisten the rim of the glass with a lime wedge by cutting a shallow notch into the flesh of the fruit, then slipping it over the rim of the glass, as though to garnish it (as pictured above, bottom left). Now draw the lime along the entire rim, squeezing gently (not so hard that it drips), until the edge is uniformly moistened. It should make a nice clean line.

Now the Secret
You want to make sure the salt goes on the outside of the glass only - not the inside, where it’s liable to fall into the liquid and wreak salty havoc. So, now, rather than pressing the entire rim into the saucer at once, cookie-cutter style, try this: Tip the glass on its side, parallel to the saucer (as pictured above, bottom right). Gently roll the glass's stem between your fingers, tapping the rim gently in the salt "sandbox" until the entire outer edge is covered. Shake off any loose grains into the sink, and you’re done. Your glass is now ready to be filled with a freshly-shaken Margarita!

Some Bonus Tips


  • Some bartenders prefer to stop halfway, leaving a portion the glass’s rim bare, so that the salt forms an elegant crescent moon.

  • When making drinks for a large crowd, glasses can be rimmed several hours ahead of time and left to dry.

  • Leftover salt from your drink-making session can be put away in a small container (separate from your main stash) and saved for next time. Or, if it's the end of season for you, use the orphaned salt for scrubbing wooden cutting boards or cast-iron pans.

Other Uses
This technique will of course work for any mixed drink that calls for a flavored rim, such as superfine sugar with a Sidecar (use lemon juice or Cointreau to moisten), or cocoa powder with a Chocolate Martini (use creme de cacoa liqueur).

Do you have any favorite variations of your own? Let us know!

Also see this recipe:
Recipe: Margaritas To Make Men & Women Giggle

(Image: Nora Maynard)

-Nora