I Will Now Spike Every Margarita With MSG

Just when you think you’ve tried every style of Margarita under the sun, a new version comes along that subverts all expectations. At the newly opened Coral Wig in Baltimore’s historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood, the menu leans tropical, with cocktails that do not shy away from bold, theatrical garnishes. Hidden among drinks like the Mango Boy, served with a speared caper berry and sprinkles of pistachio and pink peppercorn, or the Flamboyán cachaça cocktail, topped off with a wafer-thin safflower, sits the unassuming Banana Hammock. On the surface, it looks just like any other fruited Margarita, but from the first sip it’s clear this recipe has a few secrets.

First, the blanco tequila is infused over four days with ripe, but not too ripe, bananas. “The problem with overripe bananas is the tequila doesn’t take on as much of the flavor,” says Coral Wig owner Lane Harlan. “The infusion should turn brown and smell like fresh bananas.” That aroma, of course, translates to the nose of the drink, and that flavor is enhanced by the slight sweetness of Tempus Fugit Crème de Banane liqueur. In addition to the expected lime juice, cold-pressed yuzu juice levels up the brightness. 

But what truly sets this cocktail apart is MSG. Just two dashes of the solution round out the body of the drink, offering viscosity and a subtle umami note. Though it’s hardly the star of the show, the MSG solution transforms the drink from just another Margarita riff to one whose complex, savory layers continue to build with every sip.

The finishing touch is a salt rim—but not just any salt rim. As is typical at her bars, Harlan reimagines the garnish as an equal-parts combination of chamomile flowers, bee pollen and pink Himalayan salt. The rim is applied as a rough semi-oval, or as Harlan says, “You want the salt rim to look rustic, like it has butterfly wings.” Fitting for a tropics-inspired bar that’s about to take off.

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