Ever heard of fat washing? This technique was created in a famous cocktail bar in New York and now finds its way in shakers all over the world. We can safely say that fat washing, a technique that consists of flavouring an alcohol with fat, allows us to craft even more creative recipes. Let’s take a look.
For a little back story…
• It all started in 2007 in a New York cocktail bar. Don Lee, famous mixologist at Please Don’t Tell (PDT) in New York City, attempted a new kind of experiment: combining bourbon and bacon in the same glass! It combines two of the most popular flavours in the United States. It’s a clear hit and Benton’s Old-Fashioned is making a name for itself. It will surely become PDT’s best-selling cocktail!
• Don Lee confides that he was inspired by a famous colleague in the New York mixology world to create a cocktail based on rum and brown butter. Looking back a little further, fat washing finds its roots in an ancient perfumer’s technique called enfleurage. Even though the fat washing trend has left some perplexed, it has spread very quickly beyond New York.
The fat washing technique
• Sesame oil, peanut butter, bacon fat, coconut oil … all sorts of fats can be used for fat washing. Some fats will need to be heated beforehand (in the microwave for example). Bacon is cooked to get its fat.
• To begin fat washing you must first mix the alcohol and the fat and then leave them to stand at room temperature for several hours. This allows the alcohol to begin to dissolve some of the oil molecules and retain its flavour. The mixture is then placed in the refrigerator or freezer until the fats solidify and can be easily filtered with a skimmer. They’ll come to the surface once cooled.
• Once these steps have been completed, we obtain an alcohol that has retained all the flavours of the fats used after skimming. Even though the texture of the alcohol has changed very little, fat washing usually makes the mixture slightly softer and creamier. The result is only better! This nuance, which is very light, will be mainly noted by the most discerning palates.
• Fat washing experts often repeat that you shouldn’t be afraid to make a few attempts before finding the perfect balance between alcohol and the chosen fat. It’s all a question of the amounts, as is often the case in the mixology world!
A promising trend
• Fat washing is not a new trend; it was popularised in 2007 by bartender Don Lee on the other side of the Atlantic.
• Since then, the prejudices of a drink considered fatty and unappetising have diminished. However, fat washing should not be considered a caloric drink and as such does not hinder the healthy trends in the gastronomy world. Indeed, the cocktail does not contain fat as it is removed during the skimming process. Only aromatic enzymes are preserved. The creations will therefore be able to seduce a very large part of your clientele. It should also be noted that the technique gives the drink a richer texture and a silky mouth feel rather than a strong flavour.
• For vegetarian customers, animal fats can be replaced by activated carbon, for example, when you want to give a smoky character to the cocktail.
• The fat washing technique also allows bartenders the opportunity to innovate continuously and thus surprise their guests. With no limit in the combination of flavours, fat washing works with all alcohols (over 40 degrees) and all fats. Whisky and duck fat, cognac and olive oil, gin and peanut butter … the combinations haven’t ceased to surprise cocktail lovers since the creation of Don Lee. The possibility of using food that would otherwise be difficult to add to drinks makes the culinary scope of homemade cocktails virtually limitless. It’s enough
to just be creative and patient in finding the perfect combination.
Fat washing in action!
• Are you ready to try fat washing? Even if nothing beats experimentation, it’s best to reduce the amount of strong-tasting fat such as bacon (about 120 g for 750 ml of alcohol) compared to a more neutral fat such as butter or olive oil (about 240 g for 750 ml of alcohol).
• Here are a few ideas and recipes for combinations to recreate at home and then offer to your guests!
- Martini and olive oil
- Dark rum and melted butter
- Bacon and bourbon
- Chorizo and bourbon
- Brown butter and whiskey
- Chocolate milk and vodka
You know everything you need to know about fat washing! Now all you have to do is roll up your sleeves and get experimenting. Here is Raphael Duron's recipe, Shades of Brazil.