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How to rim a glass

Some cocktail recipes, like margaritas, call for you to rim the glass with salt or sugar. You should also feel free to add rims to cocktail recipes that don’t call for them – this can put an exciting twist on standard recipes.

You can do this with a rimmer dish (I got this one at Amazon) and it makes it much easier, or you can go for a beautiful wooden salt box rimmer) or just plates and saucers, but either way the basic steps are always the same:

Overhead shot of margarita with salt-rimmed glass

  1. Moisten the rim.
  2. Turn the glass upside down and dip it.
  3. Some bartenders recommend twisting the glass to get more stuff on the rim; some advise not. Try it both ways to see what works for you. Generally, not twisting will result in less stuff on the rim, but that might be a good thing. And it depends on the texture of whatever you’re using to rim glasses.

Do we have a video? Yes, we do. And then below the video we have it all written out in detail for everyone who prefers to read it.

Tips and Techniques

Before you start, get the following together:

The rimmer saucer: Pour your sugar, salt or whatever you’re using to rim the glasses with on a saucer or plate, or a rimmer dish. Use plenty to make sure the rim gets covered, and make sure the circle of powder is bigger in diameter than the rim of your glass.

What kind of salt/sugar? For salt, I prefer the look and taste of coarse sea salt or kosher salt, but you can use regular table salt. For sugar, plain white or brown sugar works fine, and powdered/confectioner sugar will, too.

One of my favorites is coarse turbinado sugar, which looks like little golden crystals along the rim of the glass.

The moistener: if citrus flavors fit the cocktail you’re making, use a wedge of lime, lemon or orange to rim the glass. If not, use a clean sponge dipped in one of the ingredients from the drink – preferably a liqueur, so it’ll be sticky.

Alternatively, you can also pour simple syrup onto another saucer and dip the glass in that.

Or if you’re using a rimmer dish:

Rimmer dish with compartments

Pour your liquid over the sponge in the compartment labeled “Lime.” If you’re using lime, I recommend buying bottled lime juice for it rather than fresh squeezed.

If you’re not using lime in your recipe – say, you’re using a graham cracker crust for the Pumpkin Pie Martini, which doesn’t have lime anywhere near it – you can use simple syrup or even honey or agave syrup. With this sponge, even water works pretty well when you’re not sure what to use.

Pour your salt in the salt compartment, sugar in the sugar… if you’re doing a graham cracker or chili rim or something unusual, you can pour that in one of the compartments instead of salt or sugar, or you can just use a saucer.

The nice thing about a margarita rimmer is that it closes up neatly and you can just open it and reuse the salt and sugar next time. Be sure the wash the sponge out after each use in the sink, since lime juice can spoil.

Rimmer dish partially closed

Now you’re ready to rim!

1. Moisten the rim. Whether you’re using a citrus wedge or a sponge dipped in liqueur, rub it along the glass at a slow steady pace to make it even. Remove any pulp or seeds that get on the rim.

If you’re using simple syrup on a saucer, just dip the glass once without twisting to get proper coverage. If you’re using the rimmer dish, just squish the glass down into the sponge.

Rubbing lime along rim of glass

Putting glass in water

2. Dip the glass in the salt/sugar/powdered whatever. Turn it upside down and dip it in the powder firmly, as if the glass rim has ink on it and you’re trying to stamp a perfect circle in your sugar or salt.

Putting glass in salt

3. The twist? Some bartenders just stamp the glass once, but most twist to get more salt on the rim. Whatever you do, don’t keep stamping it more than once, because that makes it fall off the rim and collect on the sides.

Salt-rimmed margarita with lime


Here’s where it gets fun. Don’t limit yourself to salt and sugar! You can rim glasses with anything powdered. The possibilities are pretty much endless. Your only inhibition is making sure the flavoring of the rim goes well with the flavor of the cocktail. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cocoa. Perfect for chocolate martinis.
  • Cinnamon-sugar. Delicious with lots of cocktails – consider ones that use Kahlua, Baileys, orange or chocolate liqueurs.
  • Spicy Rim #1. Mix 1 part coarse salt with one part chili powder (cayenne, chipotle, etc.) for a fantastic hot & spicy rim.
  • Spicy Rim #2. Mix equal parts coarse salt, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder.
  • Sweet & Spicy. The Red Hot Santa ‘Tini calls for a combination of chili and cocoa powder, which is wonderful with a lot of chocolatey drinks.
  • Celery Salt. Great for Bloody Marys.
  • Crushed candy or cookies. Basically, anything you can powder can be used as a rim.
  • Crushed graham crackers. Works on pretty much any drink that’s good with a sugar rim. Wonderful with Sidecars.
  • Ginger. Mix equal parts sugar and powdered ginger.
  • Powdered drink mixes. Not every powdered drink mix is the right texture for sticking to the glass, but you can usually work around that by moistening the glass differently – for example, simple syrup may work better on really fine powders than citrus. A powdered mint hot chocolate mix makes a Chocolate Mint rimmer for Grasshoppers. Kool-Aid mixes can be great for fruity drinks or the Porch Crawler.

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