Bartenders are reaching for a surprising ingredient to shake into their cocktails: salt. “Salt brings out complexity without overwhelming a cocktail,” says Peter Koll, restaurant director for the Partisan. “The idea is to not necessarily taste it, it’s to add the richness and character.” These four tipples benefit from a little sodium.
Weal & Woe
$12; The Dabney, 122 Blagden Alley NW; thedabney.com.
Bar director Tyler Hudgens wanted to offer a historically accurate daiquiri using ingredients that would have been around 200 years ago. So she mixes together aged rum, sorghum molasses, lemon juice, bonal (a French aperitif wine) and salt from JQ Dickinson Salt Works, which mines it out of the Appalachian Mountains. “People ask about the salt all the time,” she says. “It’s weird for them. They want to know if the cocktail is like a margarita.” Served down in a fizz glass without ice, the definitely-not-a-’rita arrives with a piece of sorghum brittle on the side to snack on while you sip.
The Rise Above
$13; The Partisan, 709 D St. NW; thepartisandc.com.
Served up in a coupe glass with a lemon twist, this cocktail features Rittenhouse rye, aquavit, cardamaro (a digestif amaro infused with cardoon, a cousin to the artichoke, and an herb called blessed thistle) and Cocchi Americano. Koll adds a pinch of salt to the mix to “highlight the sweetness of the rye and the Cocchi, while toning down the bitter elements and adding a savory element,” he says. Additionally, the sodium helps release the spirits’ aromatic qualities, so you’ll likely catch the scent of herbs and spices before you take your first sip.
Shadow Upon The Ground
$13; Jack Rose Dining Saloon, 2007 18th St. NW; jackrosediningsaloon.com.
The foundation of this springtime drink is cayenne, jalapeno and Anaheim peppers steeped in oolong tea. Beverage director Trevor Frye combines the spicy syrup with vodka, lime juice, orange bitters and ginger beer — plus a hefty pinch of sea salt. “It lowers the dilution temperature, so the drink comes out colder,” he says of the last ingredient. “More importantly, it pulls out earth tones of tea and highlights the spice of the ginger beer.”
$10; 2 Birds 1 Stone, 1800 14th St. NW; 2birds1stonedc.com.
“It has a caramel-y aspect to it and a wine-y quality,” bar director Adam Bernbach says of his Manhattan-inspired cocktail made with dry sherry, Italian sweet vermouth and orange bitters. “You can taste the orange and dark baking spices.” To heighten those flavors, he mixes in a little saline solution with the bitters. That does the trick — without most drinkers ever knowing there’s salt in the cocktail. Not that Bernback is opposed to salty sips, as he likes using salt cured fruits — such as Key lime, orange and strawberry — to make sodas for the subterranean bar.
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