Fat-washing of liquor isn’t necessarily a new thing, but it’s certainly something that’s picked up popularity within the last few years, with the types of fats used to wash (or infuse if you prefer) flavors into liquor expanding at an almost frightening rate.
Still, there are some tried and true combinations, with arguably the favorite being bacon and bourbon. I actually do this at my bar, but wanted to give you a primer on fat-washing, along with the exact measurements I use, so you can do this at home – it’s really simple and just requires a little prep and patience.
First you’ll need bacon fat. While cooking bacon in a pan and reserving the grease technically works, it’s also not a good way to get the best quality bacon grease. Yes, quality matters here.
First of all, make sure you’re using a quality bacon – preferably something that’s not already pre-cooked, and something that’s unseasoned; no peppered bacon please. Second, instead of cooking it in a pan, place it on a wire rack with a sheet pan underneath and slowly cook it in your oven. The bacon will cook at a more reasonable rate, which will prevent burning and particles getting into the bacon grease that you collect below.
Once you’ve cooked off the bacon and collected the grease, be sure to enjoy the bacon. Waste not want not.
You can cool down the bacon to save it for later, but when you do the actual infusion you’ll want to make sure it’s in liquid form. I’ve found a ration of 4 oz of bacon grease to 750ml of bourbon to be a good mix. Combine the bacon grease and bourbon into a clean glass container that you can let it sit in for a while. I picked up this one a Target since it lets me do multiple batches at one time.
Shake the container to mix the grease and bacon and then let it infuse. I typically let my infusion sit for about 2-3 hours; just enough to get the salty/smoky note I’m looking for without beating my customers over the head with the flavor of bacon, but the longer you let it infuse, the more flavor you’ll impart.
Once you’ve let it infuse, place the container in a freezer and let it sit for 4-5 hours. The bacon grease in the bourbon will freeze and rise to the top, creating a fat-cap. Once this happens, remove the container from your freezer, break the fat-cap, and strain off the bourbon.
Here’s where I recommend a two-step approach. First, run the bacon through a mesh strainer to get out all the particulates of frozen bacon fat that are mixed in with the bourbon. The second step that I take is to run the bourbon through a coffee filter to help remove the smaller particles that have mixed with the bourbon and to clarify it. Cheese cloth works well here too.
Once you’ve strained and clarified the bourbon you’re ready to mix drinks. I’ve included a recipe below, but feel free to experiment with the flavors – I’m sure you’ll come up with something fun.
Maple Bacon Manhattan
- 2oz Bacon-Infused Bourbon
- 1 oz Maple Syrup
- 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Pour ingredients over ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a cherry (or some of the bacon you cooked to get the grease).