Lucie Loves...Tequila // In the spirit of National Margarita Day, we asked Jose Cuervo's Salt Sommelier, Max Venning: Q. Does the salt in your margarita even matter? [ad]
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For even the most novice cocktail connoisseur, such as myself, the basic ingredients of a margarita may be well known as fresh lime juice, triple sec, ice, and a good quality ‘silver’ tequila...
But the unsung hero ingredient might just be a surprise...as I recently discovered when I joined the Jose Cuervo team & their nominated (the UK’s first) "salt sommelier", Max Venning, on the second leg of his three part tour in search of the best salt outside of Mexico to produce the iconic Cuervo Margarita ahead of National Margarita Day on 22nd February.
My part of the journey joined Max & the team in Anglesey, on the Menai Straights; home of family run sea salt makers, Halen Môn...
When the seasonality of their original business, Anglesey’s famous Sea Zoo, began to weigh upon them, Alison & David began to look for fresh business ideas that could support their family and their staff throughout the year. After leaving a pan of sea water atop the aga and watching salt crystals form; the possibility of selling sea salt became a reality, developing & gaining such recognition over the years that it has become their main focus.
Their sea salt can now be found in over 22 countries, in some of the best restaurants, and in many of our favourite products such as Green & Blacks chocolate, & pipers crisps.
David & Alison were always confident that the local waters were exceptionally clean, since the notoriously fussy seahorses at the sea zoo bred in it, so to this day, Halen Môn uses the pure charcoal-filtered seawater drawn from the Menai Strait around Anglesey. These waters have already passed through two natural filters: a mussel bed and a sandbank, before they hit the Halen Mon saltcote, at which point the water is heated to create a salty brine & then placed in shallow crystallisation tanks. Once the salt crystals are formed, they are harvested by hand, and rinsed in brine to make them shine, before being left to dry.
Whilst a look around the saltcote, and the process itself is fascinating, the taste test was one of the most interesting parts of our tour. Comparing basic table salt to rock salt, and the Halen Môn sea salt makes you realise the real difference in flavours & texture.
Unlike rock salt, the sea salt flakes can be crumbled between your fingers & leaves a genuine beachside taste on the tongue, and by comparison, you notice that table salt actually has a slightly bitter aftertaste to it, which surprised me immensely.
So, let's tip this upside down & back to the margarita...
For starters, what’s with the salted rim –and does it really matter?
Well, if you you haven't guessed by now, it absolutely does matter and, to paraphrase our "salt sommelier" & mixologist, Max, here's why:
"Adding salt to a margarita glass makes the sipped drink taste rounder as it intercepts the way we perceive the bitterness of the lime and balances the sweetness of the syrups with the warmth of the tequila.
Sea salt has its own inherent flavour which it brings to the drink, so the processing stages & quality of the salt affects the overall aroma & nostalgia of the cocktail."
Since Halen Mon is made from the cleanest waters of the Menai Straights (sea-horse approved, and everything!), using an age-old method, enhanced only by modern technology to create their pure diamond like flakes; it stands to reason then, that when we tasted our own margaritas that evening, with the sea-salt & the crisp flavour and smooth finish of the Jose Cuervo Tradicional silver tequila, the overall drink would be sharp and clear with aromas of the sea. And very, very drinkable!