I knew I wanted to introduce a guest blogger at some point to Kaplifestyle. I’ve been hemming and hawing, waiting for the right moment to give it a shot. Providing a platform to teach is among the greatest gifts a man or woman can give to another.
When our editor, Stephanie, told me about her homemade cocktails, I was fascinated. Not because I drink them, I don’t. I was intrigued based on her passion for her concoctions. I respect authentic enthusiasm. I believe that people convey messages most effectively when they love what they are sharing about.
Take it away, Steph. Congrats on being KL’s first ever guest star. You are so beyond worthy.
Now that Gabe has primed everyone to start saving their bacon fat, I thought I’d chime in with another way to use it. Mix it with alcohol and drink it.
Okay, maybe it’s not that simple, but it’s not much more complicated. In my household, there are two of us that love to cook, so we always have various fats lying around. Bacon fat, beef fat, pork fat, chicken fat, duck fat – you name it, I’ve used it. Roasting, sautéing, sauces, gravies, ice cream, dumplings; there is very little that can’t be improved by adding a fat with a flavor profile that matches your desired outcome. When the trend of fat washing alcohol really took off, I knew it was something that I could do at home.
“Fat washing” is really just a fancy name for infusing. If you’re trying to infuse a spirit with something solid, it’s a pretty easy procedure. For example, instead of paying a big markup for citrus vodka, toss a few lemon peels, orange peels, lime peels, or whatever you have lying around into a jar, cover with vodka, and let steep until the flavors come together. Alcohol takes to infusions really well, because alcohol is able to dissolve both oil and water soluble compounds. This means even after straining out your flavorings, your final spirit still retains the taste.
Fats, however, are not as stable as a lemon peel. In order to infuse an alcohol with fat, you need to start with a liquid. Some fats, like olive oil or sesame oil, are already liquid at room temperature; others, like bacon fat or butter have to be heated first. Add your liquid fat to your spirit of choice and seal in a glass jar. Shake it to combine and let it steep for a few hours. It doesn’t take much, maybe a tbsp. of fat. Some people infuse an entire 750 ml bottle, but because I like to play around with different concoctions and I’m not serving commercially, I typically do about 8 oz. at a time.
Now, we’re doing this for flavor. No one actually wants to drink liquefied fat, so we need to remove the fat from the alcohol after it has provided us with our taste enhancement. To do so, we take advantage of the fact that fats solidify at colder temperatures. Take your glass jar and throw it in the freezer overnight. All the fat will collect into a solid mass at the top of the jar. Simply strain the now-flavored alcohol through cheesecloth to remove all of the solids.
(By the way, don’t throw out your now alcohol-infused fat. How much better would that maple bar indulgence be with the addition of bourbon bacon fat?)
Now that we’re clear on the how, let’s discuss the why. The fat-washing of cocktails came to prominence (and my attention, via the excellent book) via Jim Meehan of New York’s PDT. One of his most popular cocktails is the Benton’s Old Fashioned, which combines bacon infused bourbon with maple syrup and bitters. The bacon adds a smokiness to the bourbon that you usually only get from a single malt scotch. I have used olive oil in vodka mixed with tomato water for a lightened-up spin on a bloody Mary. Hot buttered rum is a long-standing winter tradition, but the texture can be off-putting to many. Why not infuse the butter into the rum instead? Take the same butter-infused rum and branch out into a bananas foster inspired cocktail. A bar in Seattle infuses duck fat into Grand Marnier (yes, it’s a Duck a l’Orange cocktail), and my personal favorite, a bar in DC infuses duck fat into St Germain (an elderflower liqueur) and mixes it with rye, bourbon, and rum (the Quack Quack-erac). The duck fat adds nuttiness to the cocktail, giving it backbone and depth that can’t be achieved in any other way.
Fat washing can give you just what you need in order to pair a cocktail with a special dinner or to add a new dimension to a standby drink. With a little creativity, we can drastically reduce our waste in the kitchen and step up our flavor game at the same time. Is anyone going to be brave enough to give it a try?