If you’ve never had, or heard of, a fat-washed cocktail, the notion may seem a little strange at first. The technique, which involves infusing fat into spirits to create a soft, velvety texture with savory flavors, began around 2008 in New York with bacon-washed Old Fashioneds.
Since then bartenders across the country have been inspired to get creative with their fat infusions, often using ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste in their restaurant kitchens.
To fat-wash a spirit, you typically incorporate the fat into the spirit while in a liquid state, letting it cool slightly after you melt it. Leave the mixture to sit at room temperature for at a few hours to absorb the flavor and then freeze it. Once frozen, you can strain out the solid fat, resulting in a rich, smooth, flavorful spirit.
Pork fat, namely bacon, is a popular pick for fat-washing, especially with bourbon. But many bartenders now infuse different fats, including duck, wagyu beef, peanut butter, and coconut oil.
Deviation Distilling in Denver even launched an extensive summer fat-washed menu with vegan and meat fat washes ranging from butter to feta to pistachio to sesame oil. For instance, the Sesame State of Mind combines Spice Trade Gin with a house-made sesame oil wash, coconut milk, lemongrass syrup, ginger liqueur, Thai chili tincture and cucumber.
Husk Savannah in Georgia offers the Duck and Cover cocktail, made with duck fat mezcal, orange, coriander and smoked salt, while North of Bourbon in Louisville, KY, has the Get Buttered, with browned-butter-washed Wild Turkey 101, Demerara syrup, spiced cherry and orange bitters. Farrow restaurant in Niwot, CO, has done fat-washed cocktails with chicken schmaltz, beef tallow, olive oil, brown butter and more. Its Ants on a Log cocktail uses a homemade peanut butter-washed bourbon mixed with raisin syrup, house-made celery tincture, raisins and celery.
Fat-washing bourbon with Japanese A5 Wagyu beef makes the whiskey richer, a little bit buttery and nutty, says Cory Miller, bar lead at Animae in San Diego. Animae features the Wagyu fat-washed bourbon in its A5 Old Fashioned (shown atop), which gives the cocktail a savory quality that’s balanced out with the aromatics from aromatic bitters and an orange twist.
Animae uses ½ cup (roughly 100 grams) of Wagyu fat, melted on low heat then cooled to under 150F, per bottle of bourbon; stirred to incorporate, frozen and strained. The A5 Old Fashioned drink recipe combines 2 oz. of the A5 Wagyu fat-washed bourbon with ¼ oz. Demerera syrup and 3 dashes of bitters.
“Fat-washing simply elevates your home bartending game, by giving your drinks texture and weight,” Miller says. “Also, fat-washed spirits are self-stable, unlike home-made syrup or citrus.”
Here’s a recipe for Iberico & Bourbon, a fat-wash bourbon cocktail created by bartender Katie Wokas at Herb & Wood in San Diego. To make the infused spirit, follow the above instructions for the Wagyu fat-washed bourbon but use Iberico ham fat.
Iberico & Bourbon
2 oz. Fat-washed bourbon
1 oz. Nonino amaro
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Add ingredients into a mixing glass and stir. Strain over a large ice rock into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.