A margarita salter is a small platter which is designed to hold salt for the purpose of rimming margarita glasses. While not a strictly necessary piece of kitchen equipment, a margarita salter can certainly be useful, especially if margaritas are being prepared in a public area of a party, since it can make the process of constructing a margarita more elegant to watch. Some kitchen supply stores stock margarita salters, and it is also possible to find them in liquor stores and shops which specialize in party supplies.
Margaritas are cocktails which are made with tequila, orange liqueur, and lemon or lime juice. Traditionally, they are served in salt-rimmed cocktail glasses. The flavor of the salt pairs well with the sour, tangy taste of the margarita, and the slight crunch is enjoyable for some consumers. Typically, the glasses are salted by first rubbing them with a lime wedge and then dipping them into a container of coarse salt; the salt clings to the lime juice, and the cocktail is carefully poured into the glass to avoid dislodging the salt.
Typically, a margarita salter is round, and just large enough to dip a glass into. A central reservoir may be included to store limes. The shape and size of the salter is designed to utilize margarita salt extremely efficiently, and to make the salting process very easy. It is assumed that at the end of the night, the contents of the salter will be disposed of, as the salt will start to cake from the lime juice.
A very basic margarita salter may be made from plastic, but glass and ceramic versions are available as well. Metal is not typically used, because the salt and lime can corrode it, causing a reaction which makes the salt taste unpleasantly metallic. The salter may be purely utilitarian, or it may be decorated with colorful designs or shaped like a sombrero, since these distinctive hats are closely associated with Mexican culture and the margarita by extension.
In a party where guests serve themselves margaritas, a salter may be set out for them to rim their glasses before measuring out a serving of the cocktail; this practice is common when a margarita machine which makes frozen margaritas is used. Bartenders may also use salters, since they are convenient and easy to use. If you're feeling imaginative, you can use a margarita salter for other things, like serving small platters of olives at a party.