Boozy coffee cocktails, robust red wines, and heavy-bodied porters and stouts are all suitable sips for winter. But another way to give your drinks some heft this time of year is by fat washing them—a technique bartenders love because it adds a velvety texture to cocktails and infuses bottles of liquor with rich flavors.
While the technique is simple, it does take some time to let your fat infuse in the alcohol. To try fat washing at home, you simply heat up your fat of choice (butter, oil, bacon fat drippings), mix that into some booze, shake it up and let it sit for a little while, and then throw it in the freezer in a plastic container, says Stuart Weaver, head bartender at Lady Jane cocktail bar in Denver.
“The fat will freeze and form a hard layer on top of the booze—which won't freeze—that you just pop off,” Weaver says. “It’s bar magic.”
When it comes to fat washing cocktails, your possibilities are many. But for a no-fail pairing, Gabriel Sanchez, general manager at Midnight Rambler at The Joule in Dallas recommends pairing fats from the same region as the spirits.
Some sample pairings, he suggests:
Benton ham drippings and Tennessee Whiskey
Carne asada drippings and reposado tequila
Chorizo oaxaqueño and mezcal (use higher-proof mezcal)
Conchinillo (suckling pig) and Spanish brandy
Foie gras and cognac
Peking duck and baijiu
Ghee and aged Indian rum
For stronger, more flavorful fats, Sanchez recommends 4 ounces of fat per 750ml bottle. For lighter, more mild fats, try 8 ounces per 750ml bottle. Here are six, fancy-tasting fat-washed cocktails to try at home.
1. Every Day I’m Trufflin' (shown above)
Hosting a winter get together? This hefty, truffle oil-washed bourbon punch from the Midnight Rambler is a good one for colder weather.
1 cup truffle oil-washed bourbon*
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup strawberry ume plum syrup**
16 oz sparkling wine or ginger beer
Garnish: Lemon wheels and edible flowers
Add bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup to a container and stir well and refrigerate.
Add ice to punch bowl, pour in refrigerated mix, and add sparkling wine or ginger beer.
Garnish with lemon wheels and edible flowers.
* Truffle oil washed bourbon recipe
750 ml bottle of bourbon
2.5 tbsp truffle oil
Add 2.5 tbsp of truffle oil to a heavy bottom saucepan, slowly heat at low-medium heat.
Pour bourbon into a freezer-safe container and set next to the stove.
When oil gets hot (2-4 minutes depending on the stove) remove from heat and pour directly into bourbon. Stir to incorporate.
Place lid on container and place in freezer for 24 hours.
Remove truffle oil from the top of bourbon. It will look like a plastic plate resting on top.
Slowly filter truffle oil bourbon through a coffee filter-lined funnel. This takes a little time.
Once filtered, pour into the final glass bottle, label and date, and refrigerate when not using.
** Strawberry ume plum syrup recipe
2 pints organic strawberries or 2 lbs of frozen strawberries
1 bottle Korean ume syrup
3/4 cup of water
Add ingredients to the blender and run for 4-5 minutes on medium setting.
When fully blended, strain into a plastic container. Refrigerate when not using.
2. Le Canard
This is a recipe inspired by a classic Boulevardier (whiskey Negroni), but tweaked to add rich dark chocolate and red fruit notes that complement the duck-fat-washed rye, says Ryan Wilkins, general manager of Bar Marilou in New Orleans. Pro tip: You can buy rendered duck fat online or from your local gourmet food purveyor, he says.
1 oz. duck fat-washed Rittenhouse Rye*
1 oz. Cocchi Americano Rosa
1 oz. Amaro Lucano
0.25 oz. Martini Riserva Speciale Bitter (Campari works as a substitute)
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
Garnish: 1 sprig rosemary and 1 Luxardo cherry
In a cocktail shaker, add the duck fat-washed Rittenhouse Rye, Cocchi Americano Rosa, Amaro Luciano, Martini Riserva Speciale Bitter, and Regan’s Orange Bitters. Add ice and stir to combine.
Strain into a chilled glass and serve up or over a large-format ice cube, depending on your personal preference. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry speared on a rosemary sprig.
* Duck fat-washed rye recipe
750ml Rittenhouse Rye
100g duck fat
Add the Rittenhouse Rye to a large heat-proof container, like a Mason jar, and set aside.
In a saucepan, warm the duck fat just until liquified. Add to the whiskey and stir well.
Let sit for two hours, stirring occasionally, then transfer to the freezer until the fat is completely solidified.
Remove and discard the fat cap. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a separate container and line it with a coffee filter. Pour the infused rye through the filter and keep it in the freezer while it strains.
When all the rye has been strained, discard the coffee filter. Refrigerate in a lidded container until you’re ready to use it.
3. Desayuna de la Noche
“I think most spirit-fat combinations will work if the cocktail's sub components match the base flavors,” says bartender Allen Lancaster of The Bar at The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, SC. “Brown butter and spiced rum, sesame oil and tequila, bacon and anything are some of my favorites.” In this case, he pairs bacon fat with mezcal for a cocktail that was inspired by his love of breakfast for dinner.
1.5 oz bacon-infused mezcal*
0.5 oz Ancho Reyes
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz Grade A maple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
1 egg white
Garnish: Dehydrated orange wheel
Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
Strain contents, discard ice, and shake vigorously once more.
Pour contents into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with dehydrated orange wheel.
* Bacon-fat mezcal recipe
1 cup bacon fat
1 bottle mezcal
Bring bacon fat to a temperature of 350 degrees and remove from heat.
Quickly add mezcal, stirring to incorporate in a freezer-safe vessel. Let rest for three to four hours.
Place the vessel in freezer overnight.
Remove the vessel from freezer, scraping away hardened fat and then discard the fat. Pour the remaining liquid through a coffee filter.
Store in a sealed container.
4. Desert Elephant 3s
Brandon Bailey, head bartender at The Foundry Hotel’s on-site restaurant Benne on Eagle in Asheville, NC, was looking to create a cocktail using Amarula, a velvety cream liqueur made with the fruit of the African marula tree. This pecan fat-washed cocktail was inspired by a sneaker shopping trip. He saw a pair of Air Jordan 3 Retro Desert Elephant sneakers with the same color palette as an espresso martini.
1 1/4 oz pecan fat-washed white rum*
2 oz espresso
0.75 oz Amarula cream liqueur
0.5 oz Damn Fine Chocolate Liqueur
0.25 oz vanilla simple syrup **
Garnish: cacao nibs and cinnamon
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with a strip of cocoa nibs and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon.
* Pecan butter rum recipe
2 cups high-quality pecans, either whole or in pieces
Pinch of sea salt
Dash of ground cinnamon
750 ml bottle of white rum
Pour the pecans into a large skillet and toast, stirring often, over medium heat until fragrant (don't allow them to burn, though). This will take about 4 to 8 minutes.
Blend the pecans, pausing to scrape down the sides with a spatula often. The mixture will be crumbly at first but will eventually blend into butter.
Add a pinch of salt and a dash of cinnamon.
Mix 120 grams (about 4 ounces) of pecan butter to thoroughly mix into rum in a freezer-safe plastic container. Allow it to sit covered for about two hours. If you have leftover pecan butter, store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Place the rum and pecan butter mixture in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
Remove the container from the freezer and pour through a coffee filter lined strainer. You will need to use several as the coffee filter will become obstructed.
After you’ve strained all the rum, transfer it into a glass bottle.
** Vanilla simple syrup recipe
250 ml filtered water
200 grams granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
Add water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla bean. Let it steep and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Strain in a glass bottle or jar. Seal and refrigerate for up to one month.
5. Prize Fighter
The Prizefighter is a modern sour cocktail with Fernet Branca as the base. This recipe amps up the Italian amaro by fat washing it with coconut and butter. “It’s a savory take on a sour with the addition of coconut fernet for our own spin on it,” says Zach King, bar manager at Curio Bar in Denver.
1 oz Coconut Fernet Branca*
1.5 oz Sweet Vermouth (Dolin)
0.25 oz lemon juice
0.25 oz simple syrup
2 lemon wedges
8 torn mint leaves
Garnish: Lemon wheel and mint
Muddle mint leaves, lemon and simple syrup in a glass.
Add remaining ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake.
Strain over ice and garnish with mint leaves and a lemon wheel.
* Coconut Fernet Branca recipe
1 750 bottle of Fernet Branca (750 ml)
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup melted butter
1 oz toasted coconut
Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and warm until fragrant, without letting it reach a boil.
Transfer to a heat-proof container and let sit for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Pour through a strainer to remove solids (discard solids).
Place in the refrigerator overnight, then skim off the solidified coconut oil and butter fat.
Pour through a cheesecloth or filter to remove any remaining solids, and bottle the mixture.
6. Figure of Speech
Fatty meats tend to go great with smoky or aged spirits, says Ben Potts, co-founder of Unfiltered Hospitality. This bacon and bourbon cocktail is a perfect after-dinner drink, with fig syrup and chocolate bitters.
1 oz Hickory Bacon Fat Washed Bourbon*
1 oz Rye whiskey
0.25 oz fig syrup
0.25 oz tawny port
2 dashes chocolate bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass.
Strain over a large clear cube into an old fashioned glass.
Express orange peel and garnish with orange peel and maraschino cherries.
* Hickory bacon fat-washed bourbon recipe
3 oz fat from hickory bacon
25 oz bourbon
Render about 3 oz of fat from the hickory bacon.
Pour into a large mason jar with 25 oz of bourbon.
Shake to combine.
Let sit at room temperature for one hour.
Store in the freezer overnight.
Remove large pieces of fat then strain through a nut milk bag, then a coffee filter.