Glass Rimmer & Rimming

Presentation is half the battle

If you serve something like this, you’re not getting a tip. No matter how good it tastes, it’s just filthy looking, unattractive and no one’s going to want to have anything to do with it.  Of course that’s not true strictly speaking.  This would be suitable for a zombie theme party, and looks appropriately awful. Dirty

Sewer water

  • 1 oz. chocolate vodka
  • 1 oz. whipped cream vodka
  • 6 oz. ginger ale
  • A few drops of Godiva (for “murk”)
  • Some Oreo cookie crumbs
  • A brown or black straw

by Bartender Dave C. from Hamilton

You may or may not be comfortable being thought of as an artist, but the business of bartending is approximately 50% knowledge and 50% creativity.   Granted it’s not the same as an oil painter setting up a canvas and painstakingly recreating a meadow; it may be more akin to a painter working the tourist trade on the sidewalk, cranking out a landscape every 15 minutes, but it is art nevertheless.

Rimming

Bartenders are familiar with Garnish & Garbage.  For newbies, Garnish is something you add to a drink to enhance the flavor; Garbage is something you add to a drink for a visual effect.  In the former category you find cherries, olives, citrus of all types, and herbs.  The latter category includes paper umbrellas, swizzle sticks, and ornamental fruit.

There is one element that crosses both categories: rimming.  Adding something to the rim of the glass can make a drink look delicious but have no real effect on the flavor, but with smart selections it can really enhance the flavor of the cocktail.

Some bartenders choose to prep there glassware in advance.  You can do this for your home if you’re having a party.  Pre-rimmed glasses not only save you time, but make a great looking display for your guests to admire.

Making it stick

You can use all sorts of things to get something to adhere to a rim.  These could include:

  • Simple syrup
  • Gomme syrup
  • maple syrup
  • lime, orange or lemon juice
  • caramel or chocolate sauce
  • Marshmallow Crème
  • and in rare cases, water

Water is generally not used because it dries too quickly. On rare occasions water can be used when using very finely powdered substances, such as powered sugar and finely ground spice items.  In most cases you’ll want something that is very sticky and that wont dry too quickly.  Citrus juices from oragnges, lemons - and most used - limes are the best to use when rimming.

Styles

Some people prefer to do the whole rim, while others do half rims or three quarter rims.  3quarter rimPartial rimming is great because then the client has the choice of drinking the cocktail with or without the enhanced flavors.

What do you Rim With?

If you’re ready to move beyond plain salt and sugar, you can use anything that complements the flavor of the liquor in the drink.  It is only limited by your imagination and your personal tastes.

There are colorful sugars, which work just fine but there also flavored salts and sugars which can give your drink an extra kick.

Advanced materials you may want to consider:

  • Wasabi sugar or wasabi salt for hot and spicy drinks
  • Jell-O powder and Kool-Aid powder are interesting variations for novelty drinks
  • Salt & Pepper, celery salt or celery pepper for the Bloody Mary and Bloody Cæsar
  • Ginger sugar
  • Vanilla sugar
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Gingerbread spice and similar for enhancing eggnog and seasonal drinks
  • Powdered chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, and ground coconut for sweet or tropical drinks
  • and when Santa is in town, crushed candy cane secured with Marshmallow Crème is the seasonal choice.

Feel free to synthesize your own creations to please yourself and impress your guests.

The Tools

Glass Rimmers

3tier

The most basic rimmer has two tiers, however, these rimmers come in up to five-tier models, for the more adventurous.  The first tier usually  has a sponge pad which you place the lime juice in, and the second tier usually contains Kosher salt.

Rimming tray

long-narrow

Some prefer just a simple long narrow tray.  Using the tray is best when doing the Partial rim technique.

Use a plate

juice

At home you don’t even need to get that fancy – just use a plate!  Some glasses can be large so just use the appropriate size.

Fancy Toys

For the extravagant among us, there are actual devices, such as The Barmaid Rimmer.  With a click of a button as you rotate the glass, you can easily rim your cocktail even after you have already placed the contents inside!  If you’re forgetful this could be for you.

Techniques

For those that use Glass Rimmers with a lime juice sponge, they’re generally in a hurry at a busy bar.  Finesse is generally out of the question.  Basically it involves pressing straight down on the sponge with the inverted glass, then pressing the glass straight down in the rimmer substance.  Doing it this way can let the substance fall into the drink, therefore, changing the flavor.

Alternate technique

Changing your technique slightly can avoid the issue of accidentally changing the flavor of a cocktail.  It may take more time, but it will give the customer a better experience when they sip their drink.

You can use a piece of fruit - lime - and wet only the outside of the glass, that way the salt or sugar sticks only to the outside and won't fall into that drink.

The reverse can be done as well - wetting only the inside of the glass.  This is done when a cocktails calls for a caramelized rim.  To do this, you rim the inside of the glass with sugar then use a Bacardi 151 float and set is ablaze.

Making Your Own Rimmers

If you want to make custom rimmers with herbs such as rosemary, you are out of luck for an automated process.  You’re going to have to bunch it up and chop it into tiny, tiny pieces, all by hand.  In a ratio of 1:5 with salt, this makes a very good rimmer…but it must be minuscule pieces to adhere.

If you want to use something like mint, it is best to lay out a large number of sprigs on a dinner plate and microwave it for about 30 seconds.  Repeat if necessary, running no more than 30 seconds at a time, until the leaves crumble easily.  Mix 1:4 with sugar for a very tasty rimmer.  This is perfect for Mint Juleps.

For a really impressive surprise, obtain any freeze-dried fruit such as strawberries, peaches, blueberries, or apples, and put them through your spice grinder or coffee mill.  Blend that 1:2 with sugar, or use it straight for really intense flavor.

In much the same way you can make cinnamon sugar, ginger sugar, Cayenne sugar, Cayenne salt, or nutmeg sugar.  Use your imagination.

Common Rimmed Cocktails

  • The Margarita unless specified, takes salt.
  • The Lemon Drop  always has a sugared rim.
  • The Bloody Mary takes a slated rim.
  • Although primarily found in Canada where 350,000,000 are served every year, the Bloody Cæsar can have a variety of rims, from salt, celery pepper and salt, or regular salt & pepper.
  • The Peppermint Alexander takes...well crushed peppermint flavored candy cane!
  • Spiced Eggnog can also have a variety of rims, including cinnamon and nutmeg sugar

Ultimately It’s Up to You…

If the idea of crushing 10 plain potato chips into your shaker with ice, 2 ounces of tomato juice, 2 ounces of vodka, a dash of Cayenne and a dash of Worcestershire sauce sounds like it would go great, double-strained, in a glass with a rim made from vinegar and salt, then do it.  Who said there’s any rule against having a drink that tastes like a BBQ version of salt and vinegar potato chips with ketchup?  It’s all up to you.

Want to learn more about glass rimming and bartending?  Enroll today to our online bartending school!

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