Sugar on the rim of a cocktail glass is like the cherry on top -- it might not be essential for the drink, but you will miss it if it's gone. Although an actual science for sugar rimming doesn't exist, a methodology does. Successfully rimming a glass with sugar depends mostly on the technique and less on the kind of sugar used.
The Sugar Process
The problem of getting sugar on a glass rim needs a solution, and the best solutions are right at your fingertips. Water, lime juice and simple syrup, which is equal parts water and sugar, will all sufficiently moisten the glass rim for the sugar to stick. Pour a thin layer of one onto a shallow plate with a diameter larger than the actual glass. On another plate, pour enough sugar so that it at least covers the surface, wet the rim of the glass in the liquid, and then gently rotate the glass rim through the sugar, until the entire rim is covered. If you are moistening with an actual lime -- or lemon -- gently squeeze the lime, and then circle the rim glass with the piece of fruit.
One of the best parts of sugaring a rim is that most any type of sugar will do. Both granulated white and brown sugar will affix to the rim, as will turbinado sugar. The key is for the sugar to have another surface area that the moistening agent will coat and not dissolve the sugar. This is the reason that superfine, or caster sugar, will not work as well. Superfine sugar will attach itself to the rim, but will quickly melt away with the first few sips of the drink. Superfine sugar is also not as visually appealing, as it will not create a uniform coat on the rim.
Mix other sweet ingredients with the sugar, or substitute it entirely, to rim the glasses with more color, flavor and even texture. Mix equal parts sugar and cocoa powder to rim the glasses of cocktails containing chocolate liquors, or fill your sugar station plate with chocolate sprinkles, instead. Other appropriate sugar mixtures include a half-and-half sugar-and-cinnamon combination or equal parts sugar and ginger powder. Basically, you can rim a cocktail glass with anything small enough, so crush your cookies and candy bars and slice up your jellybeans and gummy things for a try.
The Right Stuff
Choose wisely in deciding which drinks need -- or, more likely deserve -- sugared rims. Sugaring the rim of an already too-sweet cocktail will transform it into a sweet mess. Sugaring the rims of cocktails that have a little sour to complement the sweet is always a good rule. Cocktails like a lemon-drop martini, which is 2 parts vodka and equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup, or even a Cosmopolitan, which is 3 parts vodka, 2 parts each of orange liqueur and cranberry juice and a couple of splashes of lime juice, accommodate sugared rims just fine.
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