Trend Alert: In Celebration of Fat

Sarah Rosner behind the bar at Bourbon Steak inside the Four Seasons, Washington D.C.; Image: Rey Lopez

When it comes to ingredients bartenders consider putting in their cocktails, fat is probably very low on the list.

But a number of bars are adding it, in various forms, to their beverages, and receiving rave reviews from customers.

Toups South in New Orleans features the Pork Chops and Applesauce cocktail ($10) for which rendered pork fat is soaked in whiskey; Macchialina in Miami dishes up the Speck-Tacular Now ($14), which contains Old Forester bourbon, fat-washed with speck, a cured, smoked meat from Italy; the Iberico & Bourbon ($14) at Herb & Wood in San Diego includes Iberico ham-washed bourbon.

Fat-washing is a simple process. Fat in most forms—liquid fat or whole pieces of meat, for example—is soaked in a spirit or several spirits. It’s then frozen so it can be skimmed and strained so only the flavor and texture of the fat remain.

It’s the ultimate in no-waste as for these beverages mixologists are typically using fat that’s left over from the kitchen. Or, in the case of Bourbon Steak below, infused nuts go back to the kitchen.

Sarah Rosner is the lead bartender at Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons hotel in Washington, D.C., and is experimenting with a couple of fat-washed cocktails, the first of which launched on the first of this month.

The Taste of Hawaii

The Mauna Loa Breeze’s ingredients include Bulleit bourbon fat-washed with macadamia nuts. Rosner crushes the nuts by hand or lightly in the food processor, then toasts them for four to five minutes at 300ºF until light golden brown and oily. She then soaks them in the bourbon in a sealed mason jar, shaking it from time to time and leaving it in the freezer for 24 to 36 hours.

Rosner strains the bourbon with a chinois before straining it again through a coffee filter and mixes it with dry Curaçao and tiki bitters to bring in some island flavors, as well as orange bitters and an orange peel. A double rocks glass is garnished with a coffee bean, which, Rosner explains, “enhances the flavor of the drink, as a dash of bitters would; that sharp nose really kicks it up a level.”

The Mauna Loa Breeze costs $15, mostly because of the expense of the macadamia nuts, she explains. “But the nuttiness is smooth and creamy and comforting, which is all about fall.” All the flavors, she says, grow near Mauna Loa, one of five volcanoes on the island of Hawaii “and if you’re there, with a breeze you’d smell all of those things.” Once Rosner’s used the nuts, the pastry chef incorporates them into petits fours, so there’s no waste.

Read this: Close the Loop: Become a Sustainable Bar Today

Rosner’s also working on a beef-washed cocktail, using rendered Sanuki Wagyu beef. Since the cows that produce this beef eat olives, it imparts subtle olive notes to the beverage, she says.

“Fat-washed cocktails are hard to work with,” Rosner says. “It can’t be the main flavor and you don’t want people to have greasy lips, but you do want them to taste it.” Most of all, she says, “I love the rich mouthfeel [fat-washing] gives to spirits. That round creaminess is so satisfying and comforting.”

There’s a fat-washed cocktail on the menu at Tánsuŏ in Nashville, Tenn., too, and general manager Tim Quinn admits “for those unaccustomed to fat-washing, it seems very strange.” But once guests have tried the cocktail, he says they’re fans. “They are always pleasantly surprised; this is a cocktail guests always love.”

Duck, Duck, Cocktail

The Duck Fat Cocktail contains duck fat-infused rum, dry Curaçao (for depth of flavor and an orange kick), and Carpano Antica. It’s served in a chilled coupe glass, with an orange peel expressed on the rim. The bar uses rhum agricole, he says, “which is distilled from pure cane juice instead of molasses, which adds more of a grassy-vegetal taste as opposed to some dark rums that are almost syrupy.”

Since duck’s on the menu at this contemporary Chinese restaurant, there’s always duck fat hanging around, so bartender Justin Elliot decided to make use of it.

He washes the cocktail already mixed and in a batch since it’s simpler that way. Elliot mixes all the ingredients except the Angostura bitters and adds the rendered duck fat. For each quart of cocktail, he adds about 4 oz. of liquified duck fat, stirs it, then sets it in the freezer overnight. In the morning, he skims the fat off the top, then runs it through a chinois or coffee filter.

“What it adds is some meatiness but it’s more weight, a mouthfeel without being greasy,” says Quinn. “By the grace of God, all the fat rises to the top when it’s frozen so that all separates out, and it adds weight and silkiness.”

The cocktail’s mostly drunk as an aperitif or digestif since it’s so spirit heavy, and because of that it appeals slightly more to male guests, Quinn says. But if they have it before a meal, it can set the stage for a nice duck dish.

Read this: Shareable Drinks for the Holiday Season

While it’s obvious from the name that there’s duck fat in this drink, you wouldn’t know otherwise, Quinn explains. “I think you’d say it’s pretty much a balanced, modern take on a Manhattan. It has everything you would expect from a Manhattan, with a little extra.”

The Duck Fat Cocktail costs $12 with slightly higher-than-usual beverage costs of 23 percent, or $2.77. And the labor’s minimal, Quinn says, pointing out that it takes less than 10 minutes to make a batch, which typically happens about once a week.

Mauna Loa Breeze fat-washed cocktail by Sarah Rosner at Bourbon Steak inside the Four Seasons, Washington D.C.

Mauna Loa Breeze

Recipe by Sarah Rosner; Image courtesy of Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, Washington D.C.

  • 4 dashes Orange bitters
  • 4 dashes Tiki bitters
  • 0.5 oz. Orange Curaçao
  • 2 oz. Macadamia nut infused Bulleit Bourbon
  • Orange peel to garnish

Combine all the ingredients and stir. Strain and serve over a large rock cube. Garnish the glass with an orange peel.

For the Macadamia Nut Infusion:

  • 120 grams Macadamia nuts
  • 750 ml. Bulleit bourbon

Lightly pulse macadamia nuts in blender, then toast in the oven at 300ºF for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and oily. Remove the nuts from the oven and add to room-temperature Bulleit bourbon. Seal in the bottle. Set aside while doing other prep. Shake every now and then, while prepping. Place in freezer overnight. The following day, strain with chinois, then with coffee filter. Keep refrigerated.

Duck Fat Rum fat-washed cocktail by Justin Elliot at Tánsuŏ in Nashville

Duck Fat Rum

Recipe by Justin Elliot; Image courtesy of Tánsuŏ

  • 16 oz. Rhum Barbancourt 8
  • 6 oz. Carpano Antica
  • 2 oz. Dry Curaçao
  • 4 oz. Duck fat
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Mix the rum, the Carpano Antica and the Curaçao. Stir in about 4 oz. of duck fat per quart of cocktail, then leave the entire mixture in the freezer overnight. Skim off the fat, then run through a chinois or coffee filter and China cap. Stir the cocktail over ice and add two dashes Angostura bitters. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Finish with an expressed orange peel and discard.