In 2007, New York bartender Dan Lee decided to elevate his cocktail game by infusing his Old Fashioned with bacon fat. Since then, bartenders and home mixologists have been trying to master his technique to give their own cocktails a "fat-washing." It's a method that boosts the flavor of your classic cocktail, and it is delicious, so long as you choose fat flavors that complement your alcohol.
Think of a Piña Colada with a deeply intense coconut flavor profile. That intensity is made possible by freezing coconut oil in your gin. You skim the fat off of the top and strain the gin before using it in your cocktail, but when you do, you will find it has been infused with a complex fruity flavor that deepens and expands your whole cocktail experience.
The evolution of fat-washing cocktails has been an experiment, since it is riffing off of enfleurage, a perfuming procedure that extracts the aroma of flowers using animal fat. Fat-washed flavor combos have been getting increasingly creative, but some simply play together better than others. A few complementary fat and alcohol cocktail blends include basics like butter with rum, or chocolate with Scotch. Whiskey with brown butter also makes a great pair. If you're a parmesan espresso martini kind of cocktail fan, you may have a palate for cheese fat-washed cocktails. Or you may prefer aroma, like the notes from coconut oil, over the silky texture added from avocado and olive oils.
Fat-Washing Cocktails Hits Your Umami Sensors
The knack for building great fat-wash flavor profiles in your cocktail comes down to understanding your "monosodium glutamate" taste, or what's called "umami." Umami is known as the fifth taste and is characterized by savoriness -- though it does not end there.
While other tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter -- are stimulated at certain parts of the tongue, umami covers the whole tongue. It is a deeper, more nuanced aspect of deliciousness, a description which could also sum up fat-washed cocktails. Lee came up with the idea after asking his chef colleagues how to improve not just a cocktail but the entirety of the cocktail experience. Fat-washing imparts the rich and savory elements of fats in harmony with the alcohol.
"It's important to think of the flavors of the fat and the flavor profile of the whisky," Collin Griffith, beverage director for Colorado-based Half Eaten Cookie Hospitality Group explained to Whisky Advocate, illustrating this point. "The chosen fat is going to impart a profoundly different flavor to the spirit." A lean scotch, for instance, works nicely with an animal fat, which adds not only flavor but also a more complex body. Proof point matters, as well, since the higher the alcohol content, the more flavor your alcohol can absorb from your fat of choice.
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