Autumn ushers in beverage trends like pumpkin-spiced everything and boozy cocktails served piping hot. But there’s yet another way to build a cocktail this time of year to give it a little more heft and richness. It’s a technique known, unpleasantly, as fat washing.
But before you turn your nose up, know this: The process yields supple, nuanced cocktails that are anything but greasy as the name might imply.
To fat-wash a cocktail, you take a fat or an oil (think: butter, bacon fat renderings, coconut oil), infuse it into your alcohol, freeze the liquid to let the fat separate and rise to the top so you can scrape it off or strain it with cheesecloth while leaving its rich flavor behind. It’s an old perfumer’s technique and one that bartenders have been playing with in recent years to elevate cocktails, especially cold-weather ones.
At Lady Jane, 2021 W. 32nd Ave., a neighborhood cocktail bar in LoHi, general manager Stuart Weaver frequently puts fat-washed drinks on the menu, like a silky olive oil-washed gin martini in the summer and a boozy hot chocolate with peanut butter-washed aged rum in colder months. Weaver says the method is a fantastic way to reinvent Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. Or, instead of making a full-throttled Hot Buttered Rum, you could infuse your rum with a brown butter for something more subtle and balanced, he suggests.
“Fat washing may sound intimidating, but it’s actually an easy way to refine a cocktail and impress all of your friends,” he says. “It works best with fall and winter cocktails when you’re craving the darker, richer cocktails.”
To fat wash at home, heat up your fat of choice like butter or oil, mix it into a bottle of booze, shake it up, let it sit for a while, then throw it in the freezer, Weaver said. The fat will freeze and form a hard layer on top of the booze (which won’t freeze) that you just pop off. (We’ve got a full recipe below if you want to try this at home).
But here’s the thing: If you’re looking for one of these decadent drinks while out and about, you probably won’t find a “fat-washed” cocktail section on a menu. These drinks are hanging out under sexier names like “bacon-infused fill-in-the blank.”
Want to give a fat-washed cocktail a try? Here are five spots in Denver that do the trend justice.
At Lady Jane, the Dad Jokes cocktail is a corny one that’s made with mezcal, butter, pequin peppers, Cimarron Reposado Tequila and Nicta Licor De Elote, an ancestral corn liqueur. 2021 W. 32nd Ave., Denver
At this Whittier neighborhood eatery, the seasonal Rendered Useful cocktail is a white Manhattan (somewhere between a martini and a Manhattan) that’s made with speck-washed Laws Whiskey House rye, bay-leaf infused dry vermouth, Cocchi Americano and a scotch float. Point Easy bartenders finish it off with a folded ribbon of prosciutto as the garnish. 2000 E. 28th Ave., Denver
The espresso martini has made a comeback stronger than, well, espresso itself. At Poka Lola, bar lead Ryan Williams uses a fat-washing technique to impart the flavor of brown butter in the martini. “In the end, you don’t have the body of butter in the cocktail as you would a Hot Buttered Rum, just the flavor from the ingredient development,” he says. 1850 Wazee St., Denver
At a previous bar he worked at, Pete Tognetti, bar manager at Tamayo Denver, would garnish his Bloody Marys with bacon and chicharron among other fixings. “So using a chorizo-washed Mezcal seemed like a logical step,” he says of the Bloody Maria he’s created for Tamayo. 1400 Larimer St., Denver
For a dessert-inspired drink, bartender Austin Hay created a cookie dough butter-washed cocktail for Sky Bar, a 28-seat cocktail bar at The Stanley Marketplace that’s inspired by the golden age of travel. The Paris is crafted with a Biscoff Cookie cognac, Clement VSOP, Pineau des Charentes, Miel de Cacao and garnished with a cookie. 2501 Dallas St. Suite 311, Aurora
Want to try your hand at making a fat-washed cocktail? Here’s a recipe from Lady Jane’s Stuart Weaver that you can try at home.
2 ounces bacon fat-infused bourbon
0.25 ounces maple syrup (Grade B)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir and strain over a large ice cube in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with orange peel.
2 ounces bacon fat
750 ml bourbon
Warm bacon fat in a small saucepan. Stir until it melts, about five minutes.
Combine fat and bourbon in a nonreactive container like a clean Tupperware container (do not pour back into the bottle) and stir or shake to combine.
Let the mixture come to room temperature for an hour, then place in the freezer overnight.
Strain bourbon through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, then bottle. Keep refrigerated. Will last for up to one month.
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