Le Masquerade

Le Masquerade from HighWire Lounge.

Move over plain and pedestrian salt. A new generation of rims is running circles around you, kicking-up cocktails with each and every lick.

Now don’t get me wrong. I honor the historic role that salt has played around the rim, and there are some among us who wouldn’t imagine enjoying a margarita without this smack of sodium. But thanks to a few forward-thinking mixologists, modern expressions of rim tradition are starting to produce a new palette of flavor experiences.

Consider the El Guapo, one of the cocktails on the menu at Playground Bar and Lounge, 278 E. Congress St.

This beautiful beverage is made with blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, and Aperol, but it’s what’s around the rim that truly makes the cocktail shine.

“We serve our El Guapo with a mango con chile rim, a granulated version of the traditional Mexican Chamoy candy which brings together the sweetness of mango and the spice of red chile peppers,” said Rachel D’Acquisto, Playground’s general manager. “We’re all about keeping it playful at Playground, and this combination of flavors is really a lot of fun.”

When it comes to rim protocol, I generally see two options – give the rim a quick lick before each sip, or simply let the sips themselves dislodge and deliver the dust from the rim. D’Acquisto agrees, and reports that her guests are evenly divided.

“There’s an unspoken culture when it comes to how people should enjoy their rims,” she said, “but for me, I like to even it out so what’s on the rim lasts throughout the entire cocktail; it’s basically a lick with every sip.”

Just down the street from Playground is HighWire Lounge, 14 S. Arizona Ave., and I’m told that its La Masquerade can be a jaw-dropping experience.

This cocktail is built with vodka, Grand Marnier, a house-made chiltepin pepper simple syrup, peach puree, and cranberry and lime juices. But it’s the retro nature of the rim that’s most rewarding, transporting the palate back to its pediatric days.

“Can you imagine a jawbreaker rim, because that’s what we do with the Le Masquerade,” said Jacob Hise, co-owner of HighWire, drawing his inspiration from one of his favorite treats from childhood. “The flavors of raspberry, cherry, and bubble gum from the jawbreaker create an interesting juxtaposition with the chiltepin peppers."

For the record, that may be the first time in the lexicon of mixology that “jawbreaker” and “juxtaposition” have appeared in the same sentence.

Hise tells me that reducing the hard candy to a course dust was no small task.

“I started by putting two large jawbreakers in my girlfriend’s Vitamix, and they ended up breaking the Vitamix,” he recalled painfully. Fortunately he was able to find smaller-sized jawbreakers which simplified the crushing process.

While Hise is not able to identify measurable trends among his guests when it comes to rim-sipping versus rim-licking, one thing does come as a bit of a surprise to him.

“There are a ton of men who are perfectly comfortable drinking a Cosmopolitan-style cocktail out of a martini glass rimmed with jawbreaker candy,” he said.

In addition to Playground and HighWire, I’ve seen tasty rims running around cocktails at a number of local restaurants, including Reforma, Fini’s Landing, Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails, and others. I’m told that there’s really no limit to what a mixologist can do, as long as the flavors on the rim complement the flavors in the glass.

As my circumferential research continues, I’m curious where you reside on the rim spectrum. Are you a straight sipper or intentional licker?

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