How to Rim a Cocktail Glass

  • 01 of 05

    Rimming is a Great Addition to Cocktails

    A Margarita with a Salt Rim
    Adding a sugar or salt rim is a great way to dress up a Margarita. You can also use this popular bar technique for other cocktails to create unique presentations. YinYang/E+/Getty Images

    Rimming a glass will add an extra decorative touch and additional flavor to your cocktails. Margaritas are the most common cocktails that benefit from salt on the rim and drinks like the Salty Dog would not be salty without the rim. Many other drinks can be enhanced with this technique as well.

    While plain salt or sugar can be added to almost any drink, you can also have fun with unique additions. Imagine a Pumpkin Martini with nutmeg and cinnamon sugar or a Pina Colada with a coconut flake rim.

    Th...MOREis is a fun and easy trick that will add flair and flavor to your favorite drinks and the possibilities are endless.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Match the Rim to the Drink

    Rimming a Cocktail Glass with Sugar
    Lime and lemon slices are used most often to moisten a glass rim before applying salt or sugar and you can use other ingredients that match the drink. Ian O'Leary / Getty Images

    The first step to rimming a glass is to choose the appropriate liquid to moisten the rim. This step is crucial because sugar and salt will not stick to a dry rim.

    It should be noted here that you want to work quickly while rimming. Prepare your glasses and all of the tools and ingredients you need before starting. This will ensure the best results.

    You will need:

    • Clean glassware
    • Lemon, lime or other rim wetting agent
    • 1 or 2 small, flat plates, saucers or bowls (a larger diameter than your glass)
    • Rimmin...MOREg ingredient (sugar, salt or whatever you want to apply to the rim)

    Once you have gathered your supplies, you can quickly rim an entire set of glasses. Don't worry about making the actual cocktail until after your glasses are prepared (you can even rim hours in advance if needed). It is actually better to allow the rim to dry before serving the cocktail because wet rims can be a little messy.

    Fresh Citrus Fruit

    The most common technique for wetting the rim of a glass is to run a fresh lemon or lime wedge around the outside of the glass. This is a good choice for the majority of cocktails, particularly any that include fruit.

    1. Cut a lemon or lime wedge.
    2. Hold the glass upside down and run the fruit's pulp along the outside of the rim until it is covered with juice.
    3. Keep the glass upside down so the juices don't run down the sides and proceed to the next step to apply the rimming ingredient.

    Liqueurs, Syrups and Other Rimming Options

    Citrus is not the ideal wetting agent for every cocktail. Sure, you can use water, but rimming goes beyond presentation and is designed to add to the drink's flavor experience as well. Water adds nothing other than a medium to get your salts to stick.

    The next best thing is to turn to your drink's ingredients and choose an appropriate base for your rim. For instance, if I want to rim a Chocolate Martini with cocoa and sugar, I would use that same chocolate liqueur I'm pouring in the shaker. Likewise, for this Talking Monkey recipe, I would use either the banana or coffee liqueurs.

    You can choose any liquid ingredient that will complement your drink. This includes syrups or juices, even soda, wine or beer will work. You can also use another piece of cut fruit (i.e. peach, pineapple, etc.) using the citrus wedge technique above.

    Tip: The goal is to build on and enhance your drink's flavor.

    1. Pour about 2 tablespoons of your liquid of choice into a small saucer that is big enough to fit your glass.
    2. Holding the glass upside down, dip the rim into the liquid so it is evenly covered.
    3. Pull the glass up and allow any excess to drip off before proceeding to the next step and applying the sugar or salt.
      • Remember to keep the glass upside down to avoid drips down the side.

    A Rimming Dish

    You have probably noticed rimming stations set up in bars that serve a lot of margaritas. This is often a three-tiered, round dish that unfolds to reveal a rimming sponge and two compartments that hold salt or sugar. 

    Though not necessary, it is a great device that can make rimming a glass very easy and quick. If you enjoy salt-rimmed glasses, it's a worthy (and cheap) investment and it folds up for easy storage.

    1. Press the rim of your glass into the sponge that has been saturated with citrus juice.
    2. Dip the wet rim into either the salt or sugar and shake off any excess into the sink or wastebasket.
    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Rimming a Glass

    Rimming a cocktail glass
    Pour your sugar or salt into a plate and roll or dip the moist rim into it to create a perfect rim on your cocktail glass. Fridholm, Jakob / Getty Images

    Once you know how to wet the rim of your glass, the fun really begins! It is time to add the sugar, salt or whatever you like (we'll get to that in a bit) and create the perfectly rimmed glass for your cocktails.

    There are two basic methods for applying the rimming ingredient and we'll take a look at the benefits of each.

    Tip: Remember that you are going to prepare everything ahead of time and you should add moisture to the rim immediately before dipping it into the sugar or salt. Also, keep your...MORE glass upside down so the liquid doesn't run down the glass.

    Dipping the Rim

    Dipping the wet rim of a glass into sugar or salt is the most common method, though as you'll see, it's not necessarily the best. It is, however, extremely easy and works best if you're using a rimmer dish.

    1. Fill a saucer with enough salt or sugar to coat the entire rim of the glass.
    2. Still holding the glass upside down, dip the wet rim into the dry ingredient.
    3. Pressing the glass down gently, twist it around until it is evenly coated.
    4. Shake off any excess salt or sugar over a sink or wastebasket.
    5. Set the glass upright and allow it to dry.

    Tip: When you do pour your cocktail, be sure to do so slowly so the liquid doesn't splash up the sides of the glass and ruin your rim!

    Rolling the Rim

    Dipping is good, but the problem is that your salt and sugar may stick on both the inside and the outside of the glass. Many drinkers (myself included) do not enjoy this because those sugar or salt crystals on the inside can drop into the glass and alter the balance of the drink.

    To prevent this problem and keep the dry ingredient on the outside of the glass, it's best to roll the glass instead of dipping it. This method is just as easy and will give you greater control. With practice, your rims will look very neat and professional.

    1. Fill a saucer or shallow bowl with a pile of salt or sugar.
    2. Hold the glass at about a 45-degree angle to the saucer.
    3. Dab the rim into the salt or sugar while slowly turning the glass so that only the outer edge is covered.
    4. Shake off any excess salt or sugar over a sink or wastebasket.
    5. Set the glass upright and allow the rim to dry before pouring your cocktail.

    Tip: With either of these methods, you can customize the amount of sugar or salt that is on your rim. Some bartenders prefer a light coating while others prefer to get it nice and thick. Experiment for yourself to discover what you like best.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Choosing the Right Sugar and Salt

    Margarita with Salt Rim
    This margarita is rimmed with a large grained 'margarita salt' and you can see that it is much larger than the average salt. AdShooter / Getty Images

    There are salts and sugars that work best when rimming a glass. Just like the additives we'll discuss next, which you choose is going to be determined by your drink and personal preference.

    Standard Salts

    Kosher salt works best, just be sure it is not too coarse. Iodized salt is not very good and sea salt can be too briny.

    Specialty Salts 

    For the right drink, some of the specialty salts (i.e. smoked, pink, gray, etc.) can work really well. Try adding a smoked salt rim (or a mix of smoked and...MORE kosher) to your next Bloody Mary.

    Margarita Salt

    Many companies produce 'margarita salt' which is designed specifically for rimming glasses. This is often a large-grain salt (see photo above) that is packaged in convenient rimming trays. They are also available in a variety of flavors and colors.

    Granulated Sugar

    That same sugar you use to make simple syrup can be used to rim a glass. It works well, is cheap and you probably already have it! If you want even better results, transform it into superfine sugar.

    Specialty Sugars

    Just like simple syrup, you can use your favorite specialty sugar for rimming. Turbinado, demerara, powdered and brown sugars are all good options.

    Cocktail Sugars

    You do not have to look hard to find sugars that are sold specifically for rimming cocktails. They come in a variety of colors and flavors and can be used to add a fun flair to your drinks.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Have Fun with Rimming

    Tequila Shots rimmed with various sugars and salts
    Once you learn the fun that is possible with rimming, play around with it and use different sugars and salts to match your drink. © S&C Design Studios

    Once you get the hang of rimming you can play with the dry ingredients and rim a glass with almost anything. This is where the real fun begins because you can create custom rimming ingredients that set your drink off in real style.

    Rim Just Half the Glass

    You don't have to rim the entire glass, simply stop half way while rolling and serve the drink with half a rim. This option has an interesting look and it serves a purpose.

    • Some drinkers truly dislike anything on the rim of their glass. You can...MORE cater to their taste by leaving half of the glass bare so they can drink from that side.
    • Testing a new rimmer? If you're experimenting with your rimming ingredients there's no need to commit to a full rim that might (or might not) work well with the drink.

    Make Your Own Colored Sugar

    Yes, you can buy colored sugar designed specifically for cocktails or use colored sugars from the baking aisle of your local market, but where's the fun in that? A true DIY-loving cocktail geek will make their own colored sugars. It's easy but there are a few tricks involved.

    Add a Hint of Spice

    This trick is beyond simple and a great way to customize sugar to create the perfect drink complement. All you need to do is add a little ground spice to your base sugar. Add one or more of these spices to your plate of sugar or salt and stir until mixed.

    Skip the Sugars and Salts

    Sometimes you don't even need a sugar or salt base and you can allow one of these ingredients to stand on their own.

    Find Inspiration in These Rimmed Cocktails

    Many of the drink recipes that I've collected over the years have creative rims. Browse through these cocktails and notice how the rim is used to enhance and complement the drink.