When Don Lee created his Benton's Old Fashioned for the famed NYC bar PDT (Please Don't Tell), he started a huge trend. The base of this cocktail creation was a bacon fat-washed Bourbon. Back then, this method of flavor spirits was exceptionally creative and highly unusual.
Soon after, people started to copy and tweak the fat-washing approach. It was an all-new technique for infusing spirits with untried flavors. How else would you bring a touch of bacon to your Bourbon Whiskey?
Time to find out what this bacon-infused Bourbon is and how you can make it at home. It's a lot easier than you might think.
What is fat washing?
The process of fat washing first sounds like a contradictory thing to do. Some things just don't go together, right? That also applies to the terms fat and washing.
However, washing in this context is probably best explained as mashing and washing out.
Fat washing is a method of flavoring spirits and alcoholic beverages. In general, it is irrelevant from which source the fat originates. But depending on your choice, the flavor of the result will differ.
Besides fat washing with bacon, you can also use other food, like coconut, olive oil, or sesame oil. There are almost no limits.
How to make bacon fat-washed Bourbon
The process of fat washing Bourbon with bacon is relatively fast and easy. For washing one 700ml bottle of Bourbon you need 1oz of warm bacon fat.
The original recipe of Don Lee called for Benton's bacon. Hence the name of the cocktail (Benton's Old Fashioned).
If you can't get Benton, choose relatively smoky bacon. For 1oz (30ml), you will need approximately four slices of bacon, but I recommend making it one more - just in case.
Fry the bacon slices slowly on low heat to render all the fat. Once you have collected 1oz of the warm fat, it goes into your Bourbon. Then, all you need is a little patience to let the mix infuse for 24 hours at room temperature.
The next day, you need to store the brew in the freezer to solidify the fat in the Bourbon. The whiskey will remain liquid as the high-proof alcohol won't freeze.
After a few hours, get the bottle out and thoroughly strain the spirit. I recommend filtering it multiple times using filter paper to extract as much fat as possible. Three filter steps should be enough to get a great result.
The result of bacon fat-washing
Visually, the resulting spirit looks almost identical to regular Bourbon. Only the aroma of the bacon fat used for washing is detectable.
But even after multiple filter steps, the mouthfeel of the Bourbon will be slightly different. On tasting, you will find that it feels indeed slightly fatty. -The less your spirit is filtered, the more fat will coat your tongue and lips.
But once you use it as a base for an Old Fashioned or another cocktail, the other ingredients will distract from that fatty mouthfeel.
Best Bourbon for bacon fat-wash
For making a great fat-washed Bourbon, any decent Bourbon is a good fit. However, don't use a premium bottle for your first try. The fat wash will significantly change its taste.
My recommendation is to use either Four Roses Bourbon or Bulleit. -Four Roses Bourbon was used by Don Lee when making the first batches of his Benton's Old Fashioned cocktail for PDT.
Bulleit, on the other hand, is simply a beautiful and affordable Bourbon that works exceptionally well with the smoky bacon flavor.
Bacon fat-washed Bourbon is a great way to infuse the sweet spirit with salty and smoky bacon flavors.
The result is fantastic when enjoyed on the rocks and in mixed drinks. I recommend trying it in the classic Benton's Old Fashioned first. The simplicity of the recipe really lets the bacon-infused Bourbon shine.
- 700 ml Bourbon
- 30 ml Warm bacon fat - from 5 bacon slices - (use Benton's bacon or the smokiest bacon you can get)
- Put the bacon slices into a pan and slowly increase the heat.
- Render the fat under low heat to get as much flavor and fat out of the bacon strips.
- Once you have enough fat, transfer the warm bacon fat into your Bourbon bottle.
- Let the mixture infuse for at least 24 hours.
- Then, store the bottle in the freezer for a few hours to solidify the fat.
- Remove the solid fat by triple-straining the fat-washed spirit with filter paper or cheesecloth.
- Store it in the fridge and use it up within the next two weeks.
Bacon fat-washed Bourbon FAQs
Shelf life for fat-washed spirits does vary. Using oils or nut butter creates a shelf-stable product. Spirits fat-washed with meaty or dairy ingredients should be stored in the fridge and consumed within two weeks.
Fat washing is a technique to infuse a liquid with oily or fatty ingredients. To remove the fat, you freeze the mix and then filter the fat out after the washing/infusing process.
Simply put, fat-washing infuses liquor with flavors of fatty or oily ingredients. This process changes the aroma, taste, and also texture of the liquor.
The time for fat-washing depends on base spirit and type of fat. For a bacon fat wash, plan to infuse bacon fat for at least 24 hours to get as much flavor into the spirit as possible.