After over 10 years of making homemade cocktails and mocktails, I’ve noticed some common problems that people run into at home. One of the biggest issues across the board is that people struggle with balancing the flavors in their drinks. This is especially true with fruitier beverages or mocktails, which can tend to be glorified sweetened juices a lot of the time. This Saline Solution for Cocktails and Mocktails will help you completely banish those issues of over sugary libations forever! This easy to make recipe will soon become your favorite secret weapon on your bar cart next to bitters, trust me!
This recipe was inspired by many of my mocktail recipes, like this Zero Proof Paloma. The problem with a lot of alcohol-free drinks is that they are overly sweet, to the point of being cloying. 😬 The same can be said with a lot of tropical cocktails, which rely heavily on syrups and juices for flavor. This saline solution is specially prepared just for your drinks, so you can help balance the flavor to your own taste buds! In this post, I’ll walk you through what a saline solution is and how to use it!Jump to Recipe
🤨 what is a saline solution for cocktails?
⚖️ flavor balancer. In cooking, salt helps make certain flavors pop while also balancing things out . Turns out, the same theory works in your drinks! Salt helps play up the savory notes of beverages, while balancing the sweetness. In the same way a few drops of bitters can balance your drinks, a low concentration of salt works, too!
🧂 liquid saltiness. Salt solutions work better than using salt crystals because they’re in liquid form and ready to use in any drink, hot or cold. That means there’s zero wait time to getting the flavor into your beverages, as opposed to using crystalized salt!
🤌 special secret ingredient. This solution serves as a super secret ingredient in any and all of your bespoke beverages, not only cocktails. Your friends and family will be asking how your cocktails, mocktails and other beverages taste so good! They’ll be shocked to know a few drops of a saline solution makes the difference!
- kosher salt - this recipe uses kosher salt, because that’s what I use in my kitchen for cooking and baking! I like using both Diamond Brand Salt or Morton’s, but this recipe was specifically created with Diamond Brand. Morton’s salt is coarser in size, so the crystals are bigger, and they take up more room when measuring by volume, like when you scoop it out using a teaspoon. Do not use regular table salt. Sea salt could also affect the final flavor.
- filtered water - using filtered water means there won’t be any funky flavors in your saline solution.
see the recipe card for exact quantities.
Step 1: Measure out 80 grams of water into a measuring glass using a kitchen scale.
Step 2: Measure out 20 g of salt into the water using a kitchen scale.
Step 3: Stirring to mix until the salt is dissolved.
Step 4: Allow the mix to sit for a few moments while the salt continues to dissolve. You'll know it's finished when the liquid is clear!
Step 5: Pour your finished mixture into a glass dropper bottle for storage.
Step 6: Store your saline solution in a cool, dark place. You do not need to refrigerate it, but you can! Use your saline solution in all your beverage recipes!
Hint: If your salt won’t dilute from stirring, you can allow it to sit in the water until it dissolves, then give the mix a gentle shake or stir.
💭 why use saline solution in drinks
Beyond the rim of a margarita
Rumor has it salt used to be used to hide the taste of poor quality tequila. Any college student taking a tequila shot can vouch for this. No shade to the jungle juice and hunch punch lovers of the world, but those days are way way way behind me. 🥴 Nowadays, I’m more set on curating truly enjoyable experiences with each cocktail or mocktail, and as it turns out, salt is our friend!
salt = flavor
Just like in the culinary world, salt can highlight flavors in your beverages, too. Think of any cookie recipe you’ve seen: you add salt. It helps highlight the sweetness, and create a balance of flavors.
The same is true in drinks, especially those that skew towards the sweeter side, like tropical drinks and mocktails. Just like simple syrup can help sweeten a beverage, using just a pinch of salt is a great way to bring out the other flavors in the beverage. On Good Eats, Alton Brown famously shared the glory of adding a pinch of kosher salt to coffee to bring out the flavor.
mixology at home
Many bars are employing the magic of salt on their cocktail menus these days, whether they’ll tell you or not! 🤐 Dave Arnold is probably the most widely attributed bartender with the saline solution technique. He wrote a book called Liquid Intelligence that is full of fun and wild mixology techniques that are (mostly) doable at home.
Then Garret Richard and Ben Schaffer wrote the book Tropical Standard, where they make the case that nearly every tropical drink benefits from a small supply of salt. The best part about a saline solution is that is it super easy to make at home, and requires no specialty equipment aside from a dropper bottle, which you can pick up for less than $10. No centrifuges or immersion circulators necessary.
💡tips and tricks for getting it right
How and when to use your saline solution:
One of the best ways to do this is to make two drinks, and add saline solution to one. Then, do a side by side comparison! This is also a fun thing to do at a party with friends or family. You can conduct a blind taste test as a fun party game! Try it the next time you get together with friends!
- Cuban Daiquiri - small amount of salt helps round out the flavors of lime juice, simple syrup, and rum in this classic daiquiri recipe!
Mocktails are notorious for being packed with sweet flavors. Thankfully, they’re starting to be taken more seriously in the cocktail world. The addition of salt takes your mocktails to the next level, which will help showcase the flavors of your non alcoholic drinks! Add 1-5 drops to your favorite zero-proof drinks to balance the flavor out.
Try it in recipes like:
- Virgin Moscow Mule - A little salt helps to balance out the acidity of the fresh citrus and sweetness from ginger beer in this zero-proof mule.
- Zero Proof Paloma - A Paloma is another one of those classic cocktails that benefits from a little saltiness!
You can even experiment using a few drops of saline solution in coffee and beverages like lemonade!
- Cardamom Latte - try adding a few drops of saline to a flavored latte, like this Iced Cardamom Latte!
- Passion Fruit Lemonade - a little saline solution can play up the complex and delicate flavors of tropical passion fruit, which can be sweet and acidic. The citrus notes in this Passion Fruit Lemonade benefit from a boost of a little bit of saline solution! It helps brighten the flavor of both the lemon and the passion fruit!
ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
The most important thing to remember with using saline solution in drinks is you can always add more, but taking saltiness away is difficult, if not impossible. Try these troubleshooting tips to have the most success with your saline solution!
- perfect your ratio of salt - As a general rule, you need to use 20 grams of salt and 80 grams of water to make a 20% solution. 20 + 80 = 100 grams! And 20% of 100 is….that’s right, 20! Stick with a 20% solution instead of upping it to a 30% or 40% solution. You can always add more drops of the solution if you want it saltier. LOTS of bartenders have done LOTS of trial and error with cocktail chemistry and found that 20% is the ideal ratio of saltiness to water.
- type of salt - check out the mini guide of types of salt below to choose the best salt for you. Different types of salt will produce a different flavor of saline solution.
- level of saltiness - Make sure you measure your saline solution using a kitchen scale. This helps to ensure the precise level of salinity, or saltiness, needed so your solution is uniform. It’s also helpful if you use different brands of salt, which can be coarser or finer in size. If you’re measuring with a teaspoon, you run the risk of adding in too much salt.
- bitter flavors - salt can cut bitterness, which is sometimes in certain drinks on purpose, like in an Aperol Spritz. In drinks where you want a certain amount of bitterness to be prominent, you’ll want to limit use of a saline solution.
🔆 top tip
Use the correct ratio, which is 20 grams salt to 80 grams water, NOT equal parts water and salt.
🧂 all about salt
All salt is not equal. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different kinds of salt available in most grocery stores today.
- kosher salt - this salt is larger in size and contains no additives. This makes it easy to measure and adjust the saltiness in your recipes. It has a clean salty flavor profile with no aftertaste, making it perfect for any recipe.
- table salt - this salt contains added minerals, like iodine, that can impact the final flavor of your recipes. It also has a small grain size. Smaller granule = more salt grains in each pinch. This means it’s easier to over salt your food and drinks.
- Himalayan pink salt - this salt is light pink to rosy pink in color and is sold in small rocky grains or larger blocks that you can grind up. It has a lovely delicate flavor and no additives, making it a nice alternative to kosher salt.
- flaky sea salt - a favorite among chefs for finishing dishes, flaky sea salt adds a burst of crunchy salty flavor. It can vary in flavor depending on the manufacturer and region it comes from, so it can be tricky to use interchangeably in all of your recipes.
- sea salt - finer in grain size than flaky sea salt, but similar in taste profile. Like the flakier version, this salt can vary depending on where it was harvested.
- specialty salt - there are tons of specialty salts on the market, like black salt, grey salt, and even flavored or infused salts. You can definitely experiment and have fun! Just be aware that using specialty salts will impact the final flavor of your saline solution.
🧰 equipment needed & storage tips
🧰 tools needed
- dropper bottle - keeping your saline solution in an airtight bottle, like these dropper bottles, is the best way to keep it fresh longterm. These bottles are also great because they have measurements on the dropper!
- kitchen scale - using a kitchen scale is necessary for getting your measurements exact every time. It’s also helpful if you’re using a different kind of salt, because you’re measuring by weight not volume.
- measuring glass - while not totally necessary, mixing in a measuring glass is easier than using a tiny funnel to squeeze the solution ingredients into the dropper bottle.
- stirring spoon - I love using a cocktail stirring spoon because it makes me feel like a real live mixologist, but you can obviously use any spoon you have to stir! Use a stainless steel spoon or silicone spatula to avoid getting any funky flavors in your finished saline solution.
how to store your homemade saline solution
Your finished saline solution will technically last indefinitely. Label and date it for your own reference, and if anything ever tastes “off,” it’s best to toss it and make a new batch.
Can I purchase a saline solution to use in cocktails?
Avoid using standard “saline solutions” that are meant to be used for health and wellness. They aren't for drinking! Like simple syrup, it’s so easy to make your own saline solution, there’s really no reason you’d need to buy it!
Why use saline solution in cocktails and mocktails?
Seasoning your food with salt helps the palate’s ability to become more attune to the perception of other flavors in the finished dish. The same is true of using salt in cocktail recipes! By adding a small amount of salt, it helps highlight and balance the flavors, creating a more well-rounded beverage.
What is a saline solution for cocktails?
It’s a simple mixture of salt and water! Using 20 grams of salt and 80 grams of water gives you a 20% solution of saline, which is perfect for adding a small amount of salt a single drop at a time!
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Saline Solution for Cocktails and Mocktails
- 20 g kosher salt
- 80 g filtered water
- Using a kitchen scale, measure out 80 g of filtered water into a measuring glass.
- Add 20 g of kosher salt into the measuring glass.
- Stir the mixture using a spoon and allow it to settle. It may take up to 5 minutes for the salt to dissolve, you may need to stir more than once.
- Pour your mix into a dropper bottle for storage and use.
- Store your homemade saline solution in a cool dark place.
🧯food safety & other information
Food safety is an important ingredient in any recipe for success! Here are some tips to keep you safe in the kitchen!
- Be sure to make your own saline solution instead of using any store bought one intended for health purposes. Saline solutions in the first aid section of your local grocery store are not suitable for consuming.
- Use sterilized containers whenever possible. You can sterilize your containers by boiling them briefly, running them through your dishwasher with the sterilize feature activated, or pouring boiling water into the containers.