Flavor Trends: Hot and Saucy
Alcohol Abstinence Education

Salty Drinks

Salt book by Mark Kurlansky Recently my book club chose the book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. Naturally I read it with an eye toward any reference to booze.

Items of interest:

  • The Celts invented the barrel. I'd always heard that it was the Romans, but the Romans conquered the Gauls, who were a Celtic tribe. I'm going to wait for confirmation on this one.
  • Before corks, the Romans salted their wine to preserve it in a mixture called defrutum.
  • Peat, as we know, is still used to impart smoke flavors to whisky. In northern Holland and southern Denmark it was also used to make salt. They took wet peat indoors, and dried and burned it. Then they'd add saltwater, which would absorb the salt in the peat ashes, while leaving behind the actual ash. then they'd evaporate the brine to get peat salt. I wonder if it was smoky salt.
  • Ketchup has its roots as a salt-cured fish sauce. Later in America Ketchup became tomato ketchup. The first known recipe for it was from a New Jersey resident sometime before 1782.
  • Great Salt Lake (as in Salt Lake City) was chosen by the Mormons as a place to settle. Salt became a big revenue generator. Mormons are terrible drinkers; I just thought this was interesting.
  • The Ohlone Indians made salt just south of San Francisco Bay. After the Comstock lode was discovered, they needed a ton of salt, lots of it taken from the Bay, to use in separating the silver ore. Chinese laborers largely worked the salt ponds then. 
  • Cargill is the only salt producer left in San Francisco Bay.
  • In some cultures (not sure if this is a modern cooking thing, as I know nothing about that art) salt and sweet are considered flavors that counterbalance each other. If food is very salty, you balance it with honey or something sweet. This makes me wonder if salt rims always go on sweet cocktails. Margaritas, yes. Bloody Mary, no. Michelada, no. Salty Dog, not really. Hmm, I don't know. Feel free to add your input on this one. Maybe I should be carrying packets of salt in my wallet in case of too-sweet cocktail emergencies.


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i believe that the extensive use of salt in hot, southern climates derives from the fact that one sweats so much and loses necessary salt and other electrolytes this way. hence the Mexican custom of salting beer and rims of cocktails etc.

in Manhattan many years ago, i discovered the use of a blend of both salt and sugar on the rim of a cocktail. i love this effect and highly recommend it. i have also played around with rimming cocktails with citric acid and sugar blends giving it a "sour" candy effect. not very "sofistikated" but fun anyhoo!

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