Imagine the delightful taste of buttery popcorn in a whiskey, the nutty essence of toasted coconut in a rum, or the savory smokiness of bacon in a mezcal… If that sounds as delightful to you as it sounds to us, then we need to talk about fat washing.
If you haven’t heard of fat washing before, don't be thrown off by the name.
Put simply, the process involves infusing a type of fat (bacon fat, butter, olive oil… you name it!) into a liquor. Fat washing is a surprisingly simple yet high impactful technique used by bartenders to transform a spirit and infuse a noticeably added depth of flavor and texture.
What is Fat Washing and What Does It Achieve in Cocktails?
Fat washing is a surprisingly easy yet innovative technique that involves infusing the rich flavors of fat into a spirit of choice. The process helps to imparts rich, creamy, and sometimes savory notes to your cocktails, and also enhances its depth of mouthfeel. It works well because alcohol is able to absorb both oil soluble and water-soluble flavors. While it sounds strange, it's actually commonly used by bartenders to add a burst of flavor to elevate a drink.
Fat washing allows you to experiment with flavors – you could use any type of spirit you want and any type of oil or fat (avocado oil, butter, chocolate, bacon fat, and more!) of your choice. There’s really a world of possibilities that is opened up by fat washing.
How to Fat Wash
Fat washing might sound complex, but it's surprisingly easy to do.
All you need is:
- A spirit of choice (more on which spirits to choose later)
- A type of fat or oil (this can be avocado oil, butter, chocolate, bacon fat and more!)
- A sealable container like a mason jar or glass jar.
- A type of strainer (this could be a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth or coffee filter paper)
Step by step guide to Fat Washing:
- Start by melting your chosen fat source. For example, if you're using butter, gently melt it until it becomes liquid but not browned.
- Let your melted fat cool down slightly before combining it with the spirit in your sealable container. According to The Liquid Intelligence book by Dave Arnold, you typically want to use a ratio of 120g/4 oz of fat per 750ml of spirit if you’re using strong tasting fats like bacon and duck fat, and a ratio of 240g/8 oz of fat per 750ml of spirit for less strong fats like butter and vegetable oils. However, don’t feel tied to these ratios - you should play around with it and experiment to see which ratios work best for you!
- Seal the container tightly and shake vigorously for a few seconds to mix the spirit and fat.
- Let the mixture sit at fridge for a few hours or overnight, during which the fat’s flavors will infuse into the spirit.
- After the infusion period, put the container into the freezer until the fat re-solidifies and separates from the spirit.
- Once the fat has solidified, use a strainer to strain the spirit and remove the solid fat particles. Depending on how cloudy the texture is, you can strain it an additional time.
- Transfer your fat-washed spirit back into a clean container (you can also use the original jar) and you're ready to drink it neat or use it in cocktails.
What Spirits Work Best for Fat Washing?
Now that you know how to fat wash, let's talk about which spirits work best for this technique. Truth be told, you can really use any type of spirit, but just be aware of how fat washing typically impacts each spirit differently. Generally, the stronger flavored fats are usually paired with darker spirits like bourbon or rum that won’t get overwhelmed by the flavors, while the lighter spirits like gin and vodka are usually infused with slightly more neutrally flavored oils.
- Bourbon or Whiskey: These brown spirits are very popular choices for fat washing because they are already known to carry oaky, caramel and spicy notes that are well complemented by the added richness and creaminess that comes from fat washing. It’s often fat washed with stronger fats like browned butter, bacon fat and even peanut butter.
- Rum: Rum's sweetness and versatility make it an excellent candidate for fat washing. Try coconut oil for a tropical twist or fat wash it with some butter for a decadent, flavorful riff on the sugarcane spirit.
- Tequila or Mezcal: These spirits can take on intriguing smoky or spicy notes when fat washed. Think bacon-infused mezcal for a smoky margarita. Tequila’s fruitiness and tropicality also makes it a good candidate for coconut oil and sesame oil.
- Gin: With a herbal spirit like gin, consider experimenting with botanical fats like rosemary or thyme-infused olive oil. What results is a more sophisticated, creamy, herbal gin infusion that could easily elevate a Martini.
- Vodka: Vodka's neutral flavor provides a blank canvas and makes it an easygoing option for you to experiment with different types of fats. Try it with ingredients like truffle oil or olive oil for a luxurious twist.
Final Thoughts: Cocktails That Will Leave You In-Fat-uated
Fat washing is a fascinating technique that's a lot of fun for those who are looking to experiment more with their spirits. At heart, what's great about it is that it's extremely accessible to everyone, and can be replicated in your home kitchen with just a few components. If you'd like, start easy with a browned butter fat washed whisky like we did, and once you're familiar with the process, don't be afraid to experiment with more unique fat-and-spirit combinations. Your house guests will be pleased, trust us.