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Salt, sugar and margaritas

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Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with the combination of sweet and salty. I’d introduce dill crisps to my pick and mix bag of sweets, and together they’d have a party in my mouth. Oh, how they danced!

My favourite sandwich was butter and honey on toast with a sprinkling of salt. As if by magic, the salt woke up the sweetness and took it to another level – made it more pronounced, with more dimensions to it than just that one-tonal, childish, plain sweetness. My mind was blown.

It’s impossible to have missed the influx of salted caramel and other sweet and salty food hypes but it’s by no means a new craze. Just look at Asian cuisine which has used sugar and salt together for gazillion of years. Think of teriyaki. Think of pad thai. It has heaps of sugar in it. Even in my native Sweden, the humble Swedish meatball comes with a side of sweet lingonberry jam.

So why does this combination make tasty things go from pretty tasty to demigod god damn divine? Well, gather around kids and I’ll explain… *clears throat*

As you might or might not remember from biology at school, there’re five basic tastes that a human tongue can pick up: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savoury, or umami. Some of these flavours, like sweet or salty, can signal that a food is full of nutrition, while other flavours, like an excess of bitterness or sourness, might signal that a food could be poisonous or spoiled.

I’d introduce dill crisps to my pick and mix bag of sweets, and together they’d have a party in my mouth. Oh, how they danced!

So when you get a hit of sweet and salt together, you get a double sensory stimuli – like you’re listening to a good tune while having your shoulders rubbed. Or petting a cute little kitten while someone is feeding you a cupcake. Or bathing in a tub of mayo while…ok, you get the idea.

Apart from having this wonderful flavour layering effect, salt is also a taste enhancer. There you have it. Double sensory stimuli and natural flavour enhancing goodness.

Naturally, the Margarita is my favourite cocktail. I just couldn’t ask for anything more in a drink. It’s sweet and salty Mexican heaven, tangy and fresh, wild and seductive. Ok, I’m getting a bit carried away writing this. I wish I had one right now!

I’ll now share with you my favourite Margarita recipe. Many bigoted barmen will tell you that there’s a perfect way to make a Margarita, that they know how to make the “best” Margarita or that you just possibly can’t use this and that in a Margarita because WHATEVER. Don’t listen to these guys.

Food and drink should be fun and is all about experimenting and getting to know your own palette. There’s no perfect way to make one, but here are a few hints if you’d like a good place to start. Get your shaker out and invite your friends. And remember to have something to eat before you get on the Margarita-train.

Personally, I like to skip the Cointreau in my Margaritas. I know, it’s a bit Cointreauversial (zing!) but I find it can make things a bit too sweet. And if you want to drink a few, and you will, then that’s a whole lot of sugar you’re putting in your system and your blood sugar will spike, which means it will crash too. And that’s when bad things happen.

If you replace the Cointreau with Agave nectar, you will have a great tasting Margarita without the slightly bitter and sharp taste that triple sec can have. Agave nectar has a lovely sweet taste and a low glycemic index, making the drink ok even for diabetics. And, tequila is made from agave so it all makes sense.

Using grapefruit juice is also a bit unorthodox, you can just stick to lime if you want to. Remember, it’s all to taste.

3 parts silver tequila
1 part agave nectar
1 part grapefruit juice
1 part fresh lime juice

Put everything into a shaker with ice and go nuts. Serve over ice in glasses with salted rims.

If you don’t feel like making your own then there’s no reason why you should. There’re many places and people that’d be very happy to make one for you. For money, of course.

Freud on Shaftesbury Avenue in London make a really good Margarita. It’s a bar in a basement, a bit hidden from the hectic city buzz. It’s a nice escape from a day on the town, away from the crowds, and you definitely deserve a cocktail after all that shopping you did. And cocktails – they know.

Happy and responsible drinking!

Freud, 198 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8JL

Astrid Madberg is from Sweden, and believes that food and drink is at the heart of human existence and that they are the answer (and sometimes cause!) to many of life’s problems. Apart from being an avid eater, she is a musician and a budding video journalist. She has previously written for Dazed & Confused.

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