Home-made Ingredients - Fat Washing Cocktails
Updated: Mar 29
An under-used, misunderstood, regularly messed up but absolutely delicious technique that adds a completely unique element to cocktails everywhere. Today I'll try to share the story of fat-washing, give advice on some different fats to use & provide a delicious recipe to try back in your bar based on a Tiki classic. The origin of the technique hails back to Don Lee of PDT (Please Don't Tell) in New York City then again he says he was inspired by another bartender called Eben Freeman who in turn was inspired by a chef. All things aside the first drink to become a mass market staple when it comes to Fat-Washing was:
Name: The Benton's Old Fashioned Ingredients: - 60ml Benton's Bacon Fat-Infused bourbon - 7ml Maple Syrup Grade B - 2 dashes Angostura bitters Method: Build & Stir Garnish: orange peel
Bartender: Don Lee *Bacon Fat-Washed Bourbon* (Original Recipe) - 45g Bacon fat (Benton's Bacon) - 750 ml bourbon (PDT used Four Roses) Method: - On low heat, warm bacon fat in a small saucepan. - Stir until it melts, about five minutes. - Combine the molten fat and bourbon in a large nonreactive container and stir. - Infuse for four hours, then place the container in the freezer for two hours. - Remove solid fat, fine-strain bourbon through a terry cloth or cheesecloth and bottle.
Some things sounds amazing on a recipe right? The problem here is that you have to understand the ingredients used in the original process as well as the technique. Here are a few issues: 1 - Bentons bacon is a very specific product that has been smoked with Hickory for 3 days in Tennessee. Your store bought bacon simply does not compare in flavour. It could also be different from the cuts of bacon in America as they're made from a different cut of the pig.
2 - The fat has to rendered from the bacon slowly on a low heat. The raw fat cut from a piece of bacon has yet to develop a lot of its flavours & depending on how it was handled could be dangerous to eat our to bacteria. Cooking the fat causes a Maillard reaction giving it flavour!
3 - It is hard to control the flavour extraction to get a consistent product from animal fat. Additionally the surface area contact between the alcohol & the fat is important. We're all aware that fats & water don't mix so in order to get maximum flavour extraction it is recommended to agitate the mixture throughout the infusion time.
So where do we go from here? Before getting excited about ruining your spirits of choice by dumping fats & oils in it lets get behind the science of what is actually happening. We all know oil & water don't mix but by adding alcohol into the mix things change. Alcohol molecules have 2 ends - one water loving & one oil loving - so it extracts the flavour present in the fats.
In the end Fat-Washing is not so different from infusions & every bartender should remember that fact. Bartenders remember the flavour of Cantonese Duck & think by adding pure duck fat from the supermarket will yield the same flavour to a cocktail. Follow the rules of infusions & taste the fat you're mixing with. Ask yourself - DOES IT ACTUALLY HAVE FLAVOUR?! Because if the answer is NO then that's what you're doing to get in the final product.
Where fats actually come into play is by changing the texture, mouthfeel & extending the taste of the cocktail. Many sources say that by freezing a fat-washed spirit, it's possible to strip out 100% of the original fat. Frankly, that's probably not true. Freezing the spirit solidifies the fat and makes it easier to strain, but it's very unlikely you'd be able to strain out every bit of the fat. It is the molecules that are left that carry the flavour forward!
Tips: - Animal fats need to be rendered down by frying/roasting in some way in order for them to have a Maillard reaction & develop flavour. - Vegetable fats aka oils vary in flavour depending on what the oil has been extracted from. They also tend to be harder to separate from alcohol due lower freezing points than animal fat. The freezing point of Olive Oil until it cannot be penetrated with a fork is -13 Celsius. - Fats absorb flavour, some flavours that alcohol is simply too aggressive for. Try infusing your fats with herbs can yield to results not obtainable otherwise. Try infusion olive oil with burnt toast or pink peppercorn then fat washing. The flavours are incomparable. - Nut oils are expensive but add a completely new dimension to fat washed spirits. Although the oils of nuts shouldn't be dangerous for people allergic to nuts unless you know exactly the source & quality of the oil & the training of your bar staff to ask the right questions on shift I would be VERY hasty when it comes to using these. - Fats don't mix with water & we almost always chill our drinks in either tins or mixing glasses. Oils in particular get EVERYWHERE so either have specific designated equipment for making fat-washed drinks or expect the flavours to carry on with the next 3 drinks made even after washing.
Delicious Example - The Polynesian Pearl Diver One of the delicious old school Tiki cocktails is the Polynesian Pearl Diver from Don the Beachcomber. This absolute beast of a cocktail involved a multitude of rums, falernum & different fresh juices. The things that catches our eye is his use of - Pearl Diver Mix - which was a blend of the following: *Pearl Diver Mix* Method: Mix together 30g of sweet butter, 30g honey, 10ml simple syrup, 1 dash cinnamon powder, 5ml a teaspoon of vanilla syrup and 5ml a teaspoon of allspice dram. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
Now there's nothing wrong with what Don was doing here whilst making this cocktail. Except the recipe above for the mix is for just ONE PORTION. So you'll be eating 30g of butter per drink. I don't see anyone consuming more than 1 of this cocktail but the flavour profile seems very interesting to me. So I set out to re-create this cocktail not changing any of the original flavour profile but rather building in on it using modern & not-so-modern techniques used in many modern cocktail bars around the world.
Name: Polynesian Pearl Diver Ingredients: 60ml Buttered Rum* 30ml Polynesian Oleo** 30ml Lime Juice Method: Blend Glass: TIKI MUG Garnish: TIKI AF Bartender: Danil Nevsky Notes: *Buttered Rum* Ingredients: - 200g Lemonhart Original - 200g Bacardi Carta Blanca - 200g Smith & Cross - 100g Butter - 1 Cinnamon stick - 2g Pimento - 1 Vanilla Pod - 30g Fresh Ginger Method - Make brown butter - SEE HERE - Add all ingredients into a non-reactive container & let sit for 24 hours in a warm place. Stirring occasionally.
Polynesian Oleo Ingredients - Peel of 2 grapefruits - Peel of 2 oranges - Peel of 2 lemons - 500g sugar Method - Muddle peels into sugar & wait for 30 mins - When consistency of toothpaste add juices of peeled fruits - If sugar hasn't dissolved fully I suggest adding to a pan on very low heat stirring constantly until it does. - Store