October 31, 2023 by Anna-Bet Stemmet
Fat-washed cocktails are a unique and delicious way to add flavor and complexity to your DIY drink lineup. The process is a little involved, but the results are truly intriguing. By infusing a spirit with fat, you can add richness, mouthfeel, and unexpected flavors to your cocktails.
The history of fat-washing alcohol
Fat-washing alcohol is not a brand-new idea as such, but it didn’t become trendy until the early 2000s. One of the first bartenders to popularize fat-washing was Don Lee, a creative mixologist who created the Benton’s Old Fashioned at the Please Don’t Tell bar in NYC in 2007. This cocktail features bacon fat-washed bourbon, and it quickly became a cult classic.
Since then, bartenders all over the world have been experimenting with fat-washing, using a wide variety of fats and spirits. In fact, today you are likely to find fat-washed cocktails on the inspiring menus at many of the best bars in the world.
More alchemy this way! How to Use Starch in Cocktails
What does fat-washing to do a spirit?
When you fat-wash a spirit, the fat molecules bind to the alcohol molecules and extract the flavors of the fat. So, in short, fat-washing changes the texture of a spirit by infusing it with the flavors and aromas of the chosen fat source. While the process doesn’t significantly alter the physical texture of the spirit itself, it profoundly impacts its flavor profile.
See, the fat-soluble compounds in the fat source, such as oils, aromas, and flavors, are absorbed by the spirit. Once the infusion is complete and the fat is separated from the spirit, the essence of the fat is retained in the spirit. This can lead to a smoother, richer, and sometimes creamier mouthfeel, depending on the type of fat used.
Fat-washing can also be used to add unexpected flavors to cocktails. For example, you could fat-wash a vodka with popcorn to create a popcorn Martini, or you could fat-wash a rum with coconut oil to create a Piña Colada with a more intense coconut flavor.
Why do people love fat-washing cocktails?
There are many reasons why people love fat-washed cocktails. First, they are simply delicious. The added flavor and richness of the fat can take a cocktail to the next level.
Second, fat-washed cocktails are a great way to experiment with new flavors. There are endless possibilities when it comes to what fats and spirits you can combine. Think fat-washed whiskey, brown butter bourbon, and more!
Finally, fat-washed cocktails are simply fun to make. There is something uniquely satisfying about creating your own unique cocktails with unexpected flavors.
What ingredients can you use for fat-washing cocktails?
Various fats and fat-rich ingredients can be used for fat-washing cocktails. Here are some popular options:
Bacon. Bacon fat-washing is a popular choice, as it imparts a smoky, savory, and slightly salty flavor to the spirit. It’s commonly used in cocktails like the Bacon Old Fashioned.
Butter. Butter fat-washing adds a creamy, velvety texture to the spirit, along with a rich, dairy-like flavor. It’s often used in cocktails like the Hot Buttered Rum.
Cheese. Cheeses, such as blue cheese or Parmesan, can be used to infuse a spirit with a unique, umami-rich, and cheesy essence. These are suitable for creating distinctive cocktails. Perfect for folks who love drinks like the Parmesan Espresso Martini!
Oil. Various oils, including olive oil and coconut oil, can be used for fat-washing. These add both the aroma and flavor of the specific oil to the spirit.
Vegetables. Nope, we’re not kidding! Certain vegetables, like avocado or okra, can be used for fat-washing, resulting in a natural, earthy, and vegetal undertone in the infused spirit.
How to fat-wash a spirit at home
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take to fat-wash your choice of spirit at home to create your own signature drinks:
EQUIPMENT + INGREDIENTS
- A jar or wide-necked container with a lid
- A cheesecloth or coffee filter
- A fat of your choice*
- A spirit of your choice*
*The ratio of fat to spirit should be around 1:4 (e.g., a quarter cup of fried bacon to a full cup of bourbon).
- Add the fat and spirit to the jar or container.
- Seal the jar or container and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
- Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours, or overnight.
- Place the jar or container in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until the fat has solidified.
- Remove the jar or container from the freezer and skim off the solidified fat.
- Strain the spirit through the cheesecloth or coffee filter into a clean container.
- Your fat-washed spirit is now ready to use in cocktails!
More insider tips to fat-wash like a pro
Pair like with like. When choosing a fat, it is important to consider the flavor profile of the spirit you are using. For example, you wouldn’t want to use a strong-flavored fat like bacon fat with a delicate spirit like gin.
Use a high-quality spirit + fresh fat with a high melting point. The quality of the spirit will have a big impact on the flavor of the cocktail. Also, be careful to use fresh fat. Old or rancid fat will give the cocktail a bad flavor. It is best to use a fat that has a high melting point. This will prevent the fat from solidifying in the spirit.
Strain the spirit very carefully. You want to remove all the fat from the spirit before using it to make cocktails.
Keep fat-washed spirits refrigerated. You can store fat-washed spirits in the refrigerator for up to one week. However, it is best to use them as soon as possible, as the flavor will degrade over time.
5 Amazing fat-washed cocktails to DIY
1. White Manhattan
If you love a Black Manhattan, it’s time you take a walk on the light side of life. This riff on the classic Manhattan is a total game changer. Follow the basic recipe but use white vermouth and either rye whiskey or vodka as your base. We love a fat-washed vodka with hazelnut oil or almond oil as a base in this sensational sipper.
2. Olive Oil Martini
Adore a classic Gin Martini or a Vodka Martini? Then you’ve got to try this version, all dressed up with a drizzle of glistening olive oil. Use the recipe above to fat-wash your favorite gin or vodka, and then use this spirit as the base of your Martini. If you’re feeling extra extra, you can also float a little bit of olive oil on top of your drink before serving.
3. Bacon Bloody Mary
The Bloody Mary is one of those drinks that are seemingly infinitely adaptable to personal taste. Kimchi Bloody Mary, anyone? Since we already love garnishing this brunchtime staple with bits of crispy bacon, the logical next step is to get the umami goodness right there in the drink. All you need to do is whip up your go-to Bloody Mary, but use bacon-washed vodka as a base. It will low-key change your life, we promise.
4. Bacon Old Fashioned
Old Fashioned fans, you have not lived until you’ve tried this dapper drink built on a base of bacon-washed bourbon. Hot damn, it’s a vibe! The smokiness of the bacon tunes this whole drink to a different chord. 10/10 must try!
5. Coconut Campari Negroni
We adore an inventive Negroni variation, and this one is particularly divine. Campari’s bitter orange flavor fat-washed with coconut oil absolutely delivers on taste. It steers the citrus aperitif in a tropical direction while softening the bitter notes of Campari. Add this to a good gin, vermouth, and a bright squeeze of orange juice, and you have all the makings of one seriously snazzy drink.
Feeling inspired? We’ve got plenty more where this came from. Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll bring it right to your inbox next time!