Rinse Cycle

To make a better cocktail, flavor the glass

Want to elevate your cocktail making game?

Start by flavoring the glass.

A simple swirl of booze before the drink goes in adds a subtle layer of flavor. The rinse, as it's known, is a favorite technique of bartenders who are deploying subtle hints of everything from wine and brandies to vinegar and, yes, duck fat.

"The rinse imparts a certain amount of flavor from what can otherwise be an overpowering ingredient," says Spencer Weiss of Napa Valley's Press restaurant. He spikes a coupe glass with a bit of Oloroso sherry, preceding a maple-laced blend of bourbon and Cynar (see the recipe).

At [ONE] restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Levitating Monk gets some of its lift from a spritz of red verjus. "It's a nice way to add acidity without using citrus," chef Kim Floresca says of the inspired combination of rum and tawny port (see the recipe).

Fat-washed spirits have been a thing for a while, so it was probably inevitable that someone would put the fat straight in the glass. That someone is Samuel Gauthier of restaurant-bar-liquor store Merchant in Madison, Wisconsin. His Montezuma Wins at Duck Hunt is a velvety thing involving mezcal, whisky, pineapple shrub and an enriching splash of duck fat.

If you're not quite ready for fat rinses, even the simplest drinks can benefit from a touch of something in the glass. Jordan Salcito, wine director at Momofuku, uses rinses with wine and beer. At Ko, a sake-rinsed glass tames the sweetness of Moscato, while a raspberry eau-de-vie serves as a base for Belgian Lambics.

"It brings the flavors into focus," Salcito explains. "Sometimes, the two together are greater than the sum of their parts."