Bacon + Vodka = Delicious (Photo: Jeff Tidwell www.flickr.com/photos/elvispresley)
It’s getting so you can’t elbow your way to the bar at the latest über trendy ultra lounge without the mixologist (cocktail chef?), proffering their latest Bacon-tini or Pork Belly Manhattan. It appears the meat infused booze trend isn’t slowing down, so why not embrace it? After all, doesn’t bacon make everything better?
The technical term for adding meaty goodness to your liquor is “fat washing,” and when done properly, it can add a rich, smoky dimension to your favorite cocktails. The most popular fat washed spirit has to be bacon-infused vodka. Taking the most beloved meat in the world, and adding it to the most called for spirit. Seems only natural.
But you can also get creative and create some combinations that take whatever you’re drinking to the next level. Like fat washing whiskey with corned beef, or adding the flavor of baby backs to a straight Kentucky bourbon. (There’s an award-winning recipe for something just like that at the end of this article.)
How to Fat Wash
And while there is no wrong way to get the meat in your booze, like simply stuffing bacon into the bottle and letting it soak for a few days or weeks (as in the pic above), there are much better ways to get the most flavor out of the meat and into the spirit. For instance you can boil the meat in a liquid and create a simple syrup with the drippings (that’s how it’s done for the recipe), or you can also use a method used by many professionals. According to Josh Perry, mixologist at Pican restaurant in Oakland, CA, this is how to get the most flavor out of whatever you choose to infuse:
1. Start a fire in your grill. Place a large aluminum pan directly on the coals, positioned to catch the drippings of the meat above.
2. Place enough meat on the grill to render at least 1 1/2 to 3 ounces of fat. For example, 5 slices of bacon should be enough to get you that amount. Cook the meat until done. Carefully remove the drip pan from the grill and let it cool.
3. Pour 750 milliliters of your spirit (a standard sized bottle), into a non-porous container. Strain the rendered fat into the container using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Infuse for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. Then place the container in your freezer until all the fat is solidified. Remove the fat with a slotted spoon.
4. Strain the infused liquor through cheesecloth or a coffee filter one more time, to catch any last solids. Return the newly fat washed spirit back into its bottle with a funnel.
Now that you know how to get some smoky meaty flavor in your cocktails, start experimenting… and here’s recipe by Rory McCollister of Varanese, Louisville KY that calls for a simple syrup you’ll make by boiling boar bones in root beer. You read that right, I said Boar Bones. Sounds strange, but it was the 2011 Four Roses Rose Julep winner at this year’s Kentucky Derby. I got to try one last month, and I have to tell you, it was good enough to make a vegetarian reconsider.
The Triple Crown Mint Julep
by Rory McCollister of Varanese, Louisville KY
1 1/2 oz Four Roses Single Barrel
1 1/2 oz Root Beer Simple Syrup
To Make the Root Beer and Boar Simple Syrup:
Boil boar bones in root beer on low heat until liquid has reduced by half. Remove from heat, strain liquid, allow to cool, and then strain again removing all solids. Add equal amount of sugar to liquid, and boil low heat to dissolve.
In Collins glass, combine bourbon, simple syrup and mint leaves and muddle to release mint oils. Add ice, transfer to mixing tin and shake. Then top with splash root beer and 1 oz ginger ale. Shake lightly and transfer back to glass. Garnish with fresh mint.