You Should Absolutely Be Salting Chocolate Cocktails

Are you the self-proclaimed owner of a "sweet tooth?" Or, is salty more your style? Whichever side you fall on, it probably wasn't even your choice: Folks are largely born favoriting sweet or salty. Per HowStuffWorks, a particular DNA fragment has been found in the taste receptors and intestines of people who have a special liking for sweets. And some of us may grow up to crave salt because we had low sodium levels at birth.

Although, have you ever combined the two? Think of a salted chocolate chip cookie or anything "salted caramel." It's a gastronomic revelation — and there's a reason for it. Certain taste receptors in the papillae (the bumps on your tongue that detect taste) are specifically designed to detect the salty-sweet combo, says Eater. Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 first detected these specialized taste buds, which are located on the "sweet" taste cells. As pastry chef Malika Ameen explains to Eater, "Salt is a flavor enhancer, and when it's correctly combined with something sweet, it creates flavor layering" — which makes the brain happy on a biological level. Salty-sweet is a scientifically backed neurological pleasure center.

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, the secret to creating unique cocktails and taking your chocolate mixes to the next level is — you guessed it — salt. Here's how to make it work.

The salt of the earth (in your highball glass)

Per Wine Enthusiast, Ohio beverage director Eric Scott says salt pairs especially well with cocktails that use bittersweet dark chocolate. To try the pairing, simply salt the rim of your glass. Art Chocolat says coarse Himalayan or sea salt is often sprinkled on top of chocolate bars for a compelling added textural component — why not try it with a cocktail too? It'll likely also kick your mix's fragrance up a notch. Salt emphasizes chocolate's natural flavor by releasing its aromatic molecules, says the outlet, thereby making your chocolatey mouthful more fragrant and perceptibly more chocolatey. (That's why, when enhancing with salt, the key is to not overdo it.)

A sprinkle of salt can shine alongside nutmeg as the garnish on top of a classic chocolatey Brandy Alexander cocktail — a combination of cognac, crème de cacao, and cream, per For a walk on the savory side, try salting your next espresso martini, or its close relative, the chocolate martini. If you're a salted caramel fan, drizzle some caramel sauce into a spiked hot chocolate with a pinch of sea salt. Or, New York-based mixologist Paula Lukas recommends enhancing chocolate liqueur cocktails with pink Himalayan salt (via Wine Enthusiast). The result is a gastronomic showcase that is (literally) a treat to the senses.