Cocktail Cured Salmon – Gravad Lax taken to its natural extreme

It’s a simple enough recipe: Salmon, Whiskey, Chopped Dill, and equal parts Salt and Sugar.

Wrap it up in clingfilm, put it between two plates, plop a weight on top, and leave overnight in the fridge.

What you get is a lightly cured, whiskey tasting salmon. Perfect on crackers with cheese.


My mum introduced it to me as a part of her Half-Austrian upbringing. However, it seems to be more commonly known online by the Scandinavian name of Gravad Lax or Gravlax.

I’ve been making this for a while now. It was an epic centre piece to Valentine’s Day this year, and has been a popular dish at parties.

However, it occurred to me that if its the Whiskey that cooks the salmon, surely you can use any spirit as long as its strong enough. Right?

And so began the experiment with my wife and two friends, which I will detail to you know.

I tried the following combinations:

  • Whiskey & Dill (Gravad Lax) – for good measure.
  • Rum & Orange
  • Tequila & Lime
  • Sake, Vodka & Ginger

For these smaller fillets (normally I use a much larger piece of Salmon), I used around 100ml-150ml of alcohol, and a 1/4 Cup to 2 or 3 Tablespoons of Salt & Sugar. They were all left in the fridge about 16 hours.

The exact proportions depend on the size of your Salmon fillets, but that was too much math for me to do, so I went with these guesstimates. (I’d probably be miles off if I tried to do actual calculations).

So how did they turn out?

Sake, Vodka & Ginger Cured Salmon


I used both Sake & Vodka because – to my surprise – Sake is only about 15%, and I was worried it would not be strong enough. I happened to have a bit of Vodka on hand, and I did not think it would interfere with the flavour too much, so I used half Vodka/half Sake.

There was a gentle ginger taste to it, but the alcohol was rather bitter.

An oddity that happened only to me, and only on the first bite, was that I suddenly could taste mint. The taste did not come from my mouth, it was as if my olfactory senses had suddenly been told to signal mint to my brain.

All in all, it worked. The Salmon did cure and had flavour, but it definitely needs perfecting.

Tequila and Lime Cure Salmon


Now we have some particularly smooth Tequila from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Of the four, it had the most Salt and Sugar and that ended up working really well with the Tequila.

An interesting effect of the lime was that it acid cooked the Salmon. This meant that it was the most cooked of the four, and was even a little ‘Jerkified’. Again, this went well with the Tequilia, and was particularly outstanding with Avocado.

Rum and Orange Cured Salmon


We used a dark rum for this and fresh orange, with a couple of slices of lime because I had them leftover.

Again, the citrus fruit caused it to cook more than the Whiskey or the Sake/Vodka Salmons, although not as much as the Tequila one.

However, the rum and orange meant that it was considerably sweeter than the others, so perhaps less sugar is needed here.

Whiskey and Dill Cured Salmon


Again, great results. This time around, instead of measuring out the Salt and Sugar, I just took a Tablespoon and dusted the top of the salmon. To my taste buds it was the perfect balance.

You also can’t go wrong with a whole bushel of dill diced on top of it, and it goes so well with the Whiskey and the salmon.

Of the four it was the least cooked and most succulent.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Whiskey and Dill was still my favourite. However, the most popular of the evening was by far the Tequila and Lime.

It will definitely be an addition to my repertoire. The extra saltiness and acid cooking were unexpected, but suited the Tequila incredibly well.

The Rum & Orange was a similar taste to the Tequila & Lime one, but it just wasn’t as good. If I were to make it again, I would definitely use less Sugar, and I’m not 100% certain on the Orange as a topping. I didn’t really notice it.

Everyone agreed that the Sake, Vodka & Ginger has a lot of potential, but it just didn’t seem to really work this time around. It was definitely the right amount of ginger, so next time I would consider a different Sake, possibly even Shochu or Soju instead.

The big lesson we have learned from this experiment though is: other alcohols work!

So give Gravad Lax a go, its super easy and super tasty. Once you’ve got the hang of it, try your own favourite cocktail mix!

I know on my list is to try is still a Mojito Cured Salmon.