By Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef
The definition of the word “savory”, according to merriam-webster.com is, “having a pleasant taste or smell; having a spicy or salty quality without being sweet; morally good.” Now in the cocktail industry, “savory cocktail” can mean salty, not sweet and/or more “culinary forward”, which is blending kitchen ingredients with cocktails such as bacon, stock, clam juice, bell peppers, cheese etc. Sometimes it can mean spicy. It can be as simple as a dirty martini or as insane as a Bloody Mary garnished with shrimp, bacon, beef jerky, celery, carrot, a cheeseburger and spicy cucumbers. Savory is also linked to the ultra-hip word these days of “umami”, the 5th flavor receptor besides sweet, salty, sour or bitter.
Savory cocktails can be as simple as a margarita with salt. The sweet and sour of the lime and triple sec, when combined with the salt shuffle together to form an explosion of flavor, making the margarita, to this day, the most popular cocktail in the USA. My take on the margarita, was to create a line of salt based rimmers, flavored with natural ingredients and using salts with lower sodium making this a “guilt-free” indulgence.
Want to take your savory cocktail experience to the next level? Try making a michelada instead. Think of it as a lighter version of a Bloody Mary, but with beer. Being Mexican, micheladas are a way of life and can be as simple as lime with a salted rim, or as complex as one I created with hibiscus and salsa inglesa (a type of Worcestershire sauce) rimmed with my aleppo & lime rim (think of Tajin, but better).
When creating savory cocktails, balance is key. Any one flavor should not dominate as the whole savory experience can be equated to taking a bite into a juicy steak, that has been aged to perfection, seared to be a thing of beauty, but Chef So-and-So was having an off day and over salted your beautiful cut of meat. Personally I use citrus and sugar the way a chef uses salt and pepper when cooking. You could have a beautiful salmon steak and sear it, but if it is not seasoned properly with salt and pepper prior to service, it will taste bland.
Get creative with the word “savory”. Use vegetable juices, or meat; try infusing cheese or herbs; use shrubbs, or vinegars. Want to be totally off the wall, try a dash of soy sauce or fish sauce. Let your imagination be your only limitation.
One cocktail that I have created that is a crowd pleaser. It has a touch of sweet, bitter, vegetable, herbal and sour to it- touching all parts of the palate for a truly “umami” experience.
2 slices of English Cucumber
8 mint leaves
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
1 1/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Gran Marnier
1/2 oz Aperol
2 oz VeeV Acai
Muddle the first three ingredients in a mixing glass/tin. Add the rest of the ingredients, ice and shake vigorously. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and a mint sprig.