Cocktail 101: The Best Way to Rim a Glass

Sugar on the rim of a cocktail glass.

If you're tired of the twist, you can also liven up your cocktail presentation by rimming the lip of your serving glass. The most familiar item to rim a glass with is probably the salt you find on a margarita, but you can use the same principle with sugar, cocoa powder or nibs, chili powder, dried or fresh herbs, or wherever your imagination takes you.

Now, most guides will tell you that the way to rim a glass is to take it, turn it upside down, dunk it in liquid, and then dip it in salt, sugar, or whatever. And, sure. Of course you can do that. But because you know old Dietsch to be a cranky man of opinion, you can probably predict I'm going to advise you not to. Here's why: When you rim a glass in that manner, you get as much of the salt or sugar inside the glass as you do outside. That salt or sugar then dissolves into the drink, knocking the flavors out of balance. This is why I never order a salted rim when I get a margarita out. By the end of the drink, it tastes like seawater.

There's a better way. Like many better ways, it takes a little more time than the easy way. But not that much more time. The best part is, it's something you can do in advance of your next party or cocktail hour.

What You'll Need:

  • A cocktail glass.
  • Two saucers.
  • A liquid of some sort—citrus juice, water, etc. If using juice, choose something that parallels or matches an ingredient in the drink. Lime or orange work perfectly in a margarita, for example, because both flavors are present in the cocktail.
  • Powder of your choice for rimming—sugar, salt, etc.

What You'll Do:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons juice or other liquid in first saucer.
  2. In second saucer, place 2 tablespoons salt, sugar, or other rimming powder.
  3. Holding the glass by its stem, carefully tip it toward the first saucer at about a 45-degree angle.
  4. Dip the glass into the juice, rotating the glass through the juice so that only the outer edge of the rim becomes moist. Be sure to moisten about a quarter inch of the rim.
  1. Repeat this process with the glass in the second saucer, coating the outer lip of the glass in salt or sugar.
  1. At this point, you can slightly moisten a bar napkin or paper towel and tidy up the rim a bit. Be sure to get any flakes that might have fallen into the glass.


Prepping the glass in advance is helpful because it gives the salt or sugar time to dry onto the glass, helping it adhere better during service. As you might have noticed in the photos, I like to rim only half the circumference of the glass. That way, if your guest prefers not to drink the salt or sugar, she need only drink from the uncoated side of the glass.