Since my home bar was among the things I had to leave behind when I moved from Virginia, I’m limited in my cocktail blogging right now. But since bacon and bourbon are two Agitator favorites, I thought a post about how to deliciously combine the two was the least I could offer. (Why would you want to put bacon in your bourbon? If you have to ask, this isn’t the post for you.)
Alcohol is very good at extracting flavors. It’s easy to use for infusions. Throw some raspberries in some gin, let it sit for a day or two, strain out the raspberries, and voila, you’ve got raspberry gin. Unfortunately, your raspberries are going to taste pretty nasty now. That’s fine for fruit, but who wants to waste bacon? Luckily, there’s a better way.
It’s unappetizingly called “fat-washing.” It works on the basic principle that most of the flavor elements in a fat are also soluble in alcohol. This means that instead of having to ruin good bacon in an infusion, you can just use the melted fat. I got to sample a use of this technique last month at Tales of the Cocktail, a fantastic annual convention of cocktail enthusiasts held in New Orleans every summer. I’m getting baconostalgic just thinking about it. This recipe comes from PDT in New York and it makes a bourbon with an intense, smoky aroma and a true bacon flavor.
What you’ll need: A 750 ml bottle of good bourbon. PDT recommends Four Roses Yellow Label. I’ve used Bulleit, which you might have an easier time finding. Also bacon, as smoky as possible. PDT uses Benton’s from Tennessee, and while any smoky bacon could work, my own substitution didn’t produce nearly as much smoke character as what I sampled in New Orleans.
To make it, cook up 3-4 strips of bacon. Retain a fluid ounce or so of the rendered fat, letting it cool but not solidify. Discard of the bacon in the manner of your choosing (I’m sure you’ll think of something). Pour the fat and bourbon into a glass jar and let it sit to taste, a matter of hours if the bacon is strong enough.
Now you’ve got a very greasy looking jar of bourbon. To make it ungreasy, put it in the freezer over night. The fat will conveniently congeal for easy straining, and you can clean it up even further with a run through a coffee filter.
If all goes well, your bourbon will now taste and smell distinctively like your bacon. Drink it neat, or try out PDT’s breakfasty Benton’s Old-Fashioned, a version of which is pictured above:
2 oz bacon bourbon
1/4 oz maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir with ice and pour into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of orange. Enjoy.
[Photo from the Flickr stream of Dansays.]