Oh My, Umami Cocktails!

By July 1, 2016April 5th, 2017Savory Cuisine Corner
Umami Cocktails

At a recent cookout, the host was making margaritas and asking guests if they would like the rim of their glass to be salted. That got me thinking… We add salt rims, sugar syrups, sour mixes and bitters to drinks, but does anyone add umami? Is there this whole other flavor that hasn’t made it into cocktails yet? Of course, many drinks contain ingredients naturally high in glutamate (the amino acid responsible for umami flavor) like tomato juice. Other beverages like sake and aged champagne inherently have high levels of glutamate as well. But is there anyone deliberately adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) to cocktails to intentionally beef up the savory flavor?

A Google search reassured me that I am not the first person to think of an umami cocktail. I discovered there are a handful of bartenders out there experimenting with this; using ingredients like oysters, fish sauce and cured meats to add a savory flavor to their drinks. I don’t even know where to begin in adding cured meat to a cocktail, and quite frankly I’m not sure I want to figure it out.

I did however find a simple way to create a savory cocktail. The quickest and easiest way to add umami to a drink is with MSG. You can add a pinch of MSG powder directly to the drink, or create a solution of MSG and water and then add it to the drink with a dropper, much like you would for bitters. Umami is a complex flavor, so adding MSG works best with alcohols that also have complex flavors. It can be paired with just about any liquor, but goes particularly well with gin and bourbon. If you’d like to give it a try, here’s a simple recipe.

 

Umami Martini

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces of gin
  • 1 ounce of dry vermouth
  • Pinch of MSG
  • Ice
  • Olive optional
  • Lemon twist as garnish

Instructions

  1. Stir the gin, vermouth, and MSG together with ice. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an olive and lemon twist as desired.

By adding MSG or using savory ingredients, you can add a layer of complexity to your cocktails, making them much more interesting. Try it if you’re in the mood for something different or want to impress your guests.

What’s your favorite umami cocktail?

About Theresa Hedrick, MS, RD

Theresa is a dietitian in private practice who specializes in GI disorders and food allergies and intolerances. She is passionate about making nutrition fit within the constraints of the real world. Theresa previously spent years coaching heart patients at Emory University Hospital Midtown through lifestyle changes as well as teaching students at Oregon State University and Georgia State University the basics of nutrition. Read more about her background on the About page.

4 Comments

  • Juliana Bird says:

    Equal parts hojicha green tea, pinot grigio, and ginger beer makes a wonderful and very umami cocktail.

  • D'Lynne Garner says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve just discovered the 5th taste called umami and I’m so excited to learn new things about it. I was drinking a cocktail I made for myself, and for the first time I used bitters in a drink. What a difference it made too! Which led me to wonder, what about umami? My drink already had sour, sweet, bitter and the alcohol, but it doesn’t have salt or umami. So I was wondering if anyone is adding MSG to cocktails? And I found your article!! Thanks for encouraging me to explore more!! Oh the adventures ahead!!

  • Alicia Butner says:

    Thanks for the umami cocktails recipe 🙂

    Love it.

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