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For the sake of democracy in alcohol I will refer to your glass as a "cocktail glass" instead of a "martini glass". No one can ever say I have anything against a good Margarita, Mojito or other beverage - BUT I am The Martini Diva so I'm still thinking "martini glass", lol!

Okay, let's get on with it. It's truly simple to rim a "cocktail" glass. You can always just buy a professional bartender's glass rimmer and follow the instructions (if there are any.) The problem with this is sometimes your glass rim might not fit into the rimming area. Besides it's just another piece of equipment that just sits on your bar and takes up room!

OR do what I do - use what you already have in your kitchen:

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  • Get two small plates making sure the food area is large enough for your full rim to fit nicely.
  • Pour in your rimming sugar or salt or rimming ingredient in one.
  • Pour one liquid ingredient from your "cocktail" mixture in the other plate - remember this liquid will be adding flavor to the rimmer so choose one of the more flavorful ingredients like fruit juice or one of the liquors.
  • Take your "cocktail" glass and dip the rim in the liquid then lightly shake off the excess.
  • Dip your moist "cocktail" glass rim into the rimming ingredient - at which angle? see the tips below
  • Shake off any excess by holding the glass upside down and tapping the bowl gently.

You will often seen a bartender rub the glass rim with a lemon or lime wedge to moisten the rim, but I find that creates a stingy rim. I like a nice thick, crusty rim on my glass that adds another taste dimension to my drinks! But whatever floats your olive!

BTW, you can pre-rim your glasses ahead of time and keep them in the freezer chilling until Happy Hour.

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I like to use one of the "thicker" ingredients from my martini recipe as the liquid "glue" for my rimmers, especially when I'm using the more creative rimming ingredients. It helps the heavier rimmers to stick and gets you a more substantial rim.

For a thinner rim you can always use half a lemon or lime and rub this around the rim then dip in your rimmer. You'll see this technique used in most standard bars for simple salt or sugar rims.

Rim your glass BEFORE you chill it in the freezer BUT if you are chilling your glass by filling it with ice and a bit of water rim after this step to avoid getting your rim wet.

You don't have to rim the entire glass - you can rim just half of it if you like. This allows for the drinker of the cocktail to adjust the amount of the rim flavor to their own tastes and it does add a kind of fun look.

There's Always An Angle!

I've been asked whether you dip your glass into the rimming ingredient straight down or at an angle so the rimmer only sits on the outside of the glass. Here's my answer:

When I choose a rimming combo for my martinis it becomes a part of the flavor profile of the whole cocktail. Therefore I dip my glass straight down so the rimmers sit on the top of the rim. If you've done your rimming properly the rimming ingredient is nicely "glued" to the rim and won't sift down but you will get those rim flavors with each sip - provided you rotate your glass with each sip. (Yes, there's even an art to how to drink a martini!) This method also creates a very neat look to the rim.

There are those who say you should dip at an angle so the rimmer doesn't affect the flavor of the cocktail. My answer to this is you shouldn't even use a rim if it's not part of the cocktail's flavor profile!!! You're going to get that flavor on your lips as you sip so what's the point to this madness? Plus this really does make a very messy looking rim.

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Sugar and Salt - The Old School Classics

Buy some Kosher Salt.
Regular table salt is iodized and not that tasty. Sea Salt is another option and it's healthier! Both the Kosher salt and the sea salts are larger crystals and add to the look and experience of drinking. Try some of the flavored salts - there are smoked salts, naturally colored salts and salts from geographic areas and each of these has it's own unique flavor. A lovely smoked salt is wonderful on a Bloody Martini or my fun B.L.T. Martini and imagine how nice looking a pink salt would be on a pink cocktail!

Sweeten up your sugar!
Like the table salt, regular sugar is a finer grain crystal. You can use it and it will add sweetness to your cocktail which is the job of a sugar rim as it is often employed in a somewhat tart or bitter edged cocktail mixture to balance the acidity. I like to use larger crystal sugars for the look myself and I've also used confectioner's sugar (aka powdered sugar) a time or two.

There are commercially made sugar (and salt) cocktail rimmers out there on the market in a variety of flavors and colors. I've used a ton of them and find the citrus ones to be the most flavorful and least artificially flavored tasting. The nice thing about these is they are convenient and you can get a wide variety of flavors and colors. I've used these as additional flavor toppings on my homemade cupcakes as well!

I am currently working on some formulas for my own line of cocktail rimmers that do not taste so artificial so keep an eye out here for them!

Below are a wide variety of commercial rimming sugars and salts:

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DIY - How to flavor and color your own salts and sugars

If you're short on money, or time, you don't have to keep a closet full of salts and sugars at your beck and call - you can color and flavor your own salt and sugar. It's as easy as 1- 2- 3:
  • Put 1/2 a Cup of Salt or Sugar into a small zip-lock baggie
  • Add a few drops of food color - add a few drops of color at a time until you get the desired color.
  • Seal the bag and then massage the color into the salt or sugar.
  • For flavoring do exactly the same steps
  • Yes, you can add both color AND flavor at the same time.
  • The food flavorings will not last as long as the commercially produced cocktail rimmers because the food flavorings are mostly alcohol based and eventually the flavor will evaporate with the alcohol BUT it works great for the same night!
I have even rimmed a glass with a little simple syrup then dipped it in Kool-Aid - works in a pinch!

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Out with the Old School and In with the New!

These days a cocktail rim can be as fun and innovative as your imagination will allow. Beyond flavored salts and colored sugars there are all sorts of edibles that can be turned into a rimming ingredient that will take your martini or cocktail into a whole new dimension of flavor and festivity.

Here are just a few of the food items I've used to rim a martini glass:
  • Cocoa Powder - add some to sugar if you want or just plain - it's very popular to add chili powder to chocolate right now too.
  • Ground Chocolate – dark, milk or white - this creates a less bitter chocolate flavor than cocoa powder and it's my preference.
  • Ground Herbs & Spices - you can do great combinations and add these to sugar and salts.
  • Candies – Pop Rocks are a wild and truly party-down choice (check out my National Martini Day Martini!) and I've also used a variety of crushed hard candies with the same flavor profile of my cocktail of the moment.
  • Cake Decorations - Jimmies, Sprinkles, Edible Glitter. Yup, I've even used those tubed frostings!
  • Crushed Cookies & Crackers - Oreos, Graham Crackers, Vanilla Wafers, Bacon flavored crackers. .. if you can smash it into tiny bits you can use it as a rim!
  • Crushed Pie Crusts - I will use my pie crust scraps, bake them up then crush them in a baggie and freeze for later use. I usually add sugar to the pie crust crumbs. This is great on something like my Key Lime Pie Martini or any of my pie martinis.
  • Edible Gold or Silver Flakes and Dust - use alone if you just won the lottery or mix with another ingredient. Elegant and impressive and adds such nice bling!
  • Nuts - sure, why not? Especially if you're using Frangelico or Castries Peanut Rum Cream. Grind the nuts up and dip away - just make sure you ask your guests if they have nut allergies!
  • Jello - Dip your glass rim in water and then into the dry Jello mix. This is especially nice on Jello shots!
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How to rim a cocktail or martini glass