It all started with bacon, bourbon, and a New York City bar. Yes, we’re talking about fat-washing, a technique that gained momentum in 2007 when Don Lee, a mixologist at New York’s Please Don’t Tell, created a smoky, bacon-infused riff on the Old Fashioned. The Benton’s Old Fashioned married the age-old combination of whiskey and smoked meat in a glass, and cocktails have never been the same.

Fat-washing is the process of infusing a spirit with fat. Here’s how it works: A room-temperature fat is combined with a spirit before being frozen. The fat can then be skimmed off the top of the spirit, leaving the booze with a new texture and flavor profile. In cocktails, fat-washing can impart layers of flavor and umami notes, along with a silky texture that can make a drink feel luxurious — even on a weeknight.

The trend of fat-washing spirits isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, it’s surging, as mixologists are experimenting with fats and the spirits they’re washing them with to match changing consumer palates, from vegan options to more regional twists.

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“Plant-based fats are definitely trending, and they make fat-washed cocktails accessible to more diets,” says Joshua Scheid, beverage manager at Rex at The Royal in Philadelphia. “On the other end of the pendulum, duck fat continues to be a fat-washing darling at cocktail bars, particularly those attached to restaurants.”

While you can technically fat-wash with anything, well, fatty, there are some ingredients that take a drink from good to great — some of which are probably already pantry staples. Here are some ways to up your fat-washing game.


You should be fat-washing your spirits with butter.

Butter isn’t just for baking: It’s also found a home in cocktails. The ingredient can offer a slightly sweet, toffee-like component, but can also skew savory when used in combination with the right tinctures.

“Brown butter is king for me. It’s nutty and savory, but also has slight caramel vibes,” says Sofia Villalón, beverage director at Grange at Hill Farm in Sunderland, Vt. “This is a fun flavor to play with for a fall or winter menu and because it already has a massive depth of flavor.” She explains that infusing it into a neutral spirit like vodka allows the flavor of the browned butter to come to the forefront, but browned butter adds depth when infused with whiskey, too.

Tito Pin Perez, creative director at Rayo Cocktail Bar in Mexico City, also favors fat-washing with butter as the creamy palate lends itself to creating a multitude of flavors while maintaining a luxurious mouthfeel.

“I recommend using unsalted butter when starting out. You could always add herbs, citrus peel, and spices to add flavors and complexity,” he says, adding that whiskey makes for a good spirit to pair with it. Then, brown the butter up and get creative with the rest of your flavoring components. “Add your flavoring components like cinnamon, allspice, or toasted nuts until everything is cooked down and aromas are released,” he says.


You should be fat washing with cheese.
Credit: Towfiqu Barbhuiya via UnSplash

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely seen the viral Parmesan cheese Espresso Martini circulating on social media. According to the pros, fat-washing with cheese isn’t so far-fetched after all. Scheid explains that blue cheese is actually one of his favorite ingredients to use, as it lends the spirit an intense richness and a distinctive funk. While he recommends pairing it with a barrel-aged gin — especially in an Old Tom Old Fashioned — brandy is where the ingredient really shines.

“My favorite combination is a blue cheese-washed apricot brandy,” he says. “By itself, it’s a daring after-dinner cheese plate in a glass. But as an accent spirit, the play of ripe fruit and musty depth endows a cocktail with a compelling sensuality.”

Vodka pairs nicely with an infused Parmesan for a savory sipper — as the star of a Parmesan Espresso Martini. Chef Michele Casadei Massari, ambassador for the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, infuses his vodka directly with 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano overnight, then strains and stores it in the freezer.


You should be fat washing with oil.
Credit: WR.LILI – Adobe Stock

Oil is already one of the most common fat-washing ingredients thanks to its variations and versatility, olive oil being one of the most popular. While it’s a pretty universal ingredient, there are a few ways to ensure it shines in your cup.

“Think [about] cooking when fat-washing with olive oil — herbal spirits like gin and aquavit feel very cohesive,” Scheid notes. Washing gin or vodka in olive oil creates an even sexier riff on a Martini, or consider an olive oil and a fruit pairing and tap in crème de cassis for a sweet, tart treat. Take it a step further and try an olive oil-washed dark crème de cacao in a refined yet indulgent boozy milkshake.

Ben Fellenbaum, bar manager of Townsend in Philadelphia, has a fondness for how tropical cocktails taste when made with coconut oil. This can nix the artificial flavor and slightly off aftertaste that some cocktails made with rum can come with.

“Coconut oil is a great way to impart coconut flavor on a rum that tastes more natural, rather than what you might find in a coconut-flavored rum. You can use your rum of choice this way rather than feeling beholden to the producers making coconut rum already,” he says, noting that he prefers to use Plantation rum and fat-wash it for the desired result.

Our mixologists note they’ve also played around with oils like truffle, sesame, yuzu, and chili to create the perfect sip that shifts texture as well as flavor.


You should be fat washing with vegetables.
Credit: Engin Akyurt via UnSplash

As plant-based diets are becoming more prevalent among drinkers, mixologists have had to get creative. While it may sound counterintuitive to combine the phrase “fat-washing” with “raw vegetables,” it is, in fact, doable and delicious.

“Using more universally accepted items, like vegetables or nuts, make your cocktails more friendly to a wider audience,” says Rocco DiLillo, bar manager at New York’s Albert’s Bar. The key here is to work with vegetables that have plenty of natural oils, like avocado, as potency is a main concern. Many options outside of animal fats aren’t always intense enough to take center stage in a cocktail, but DiLillo cites the bar’s okra-washed blanc vermouth as an example of a fat-washed spirit that has been a hit with patrons.

“We use okra specifically because of the highly viscous oils that transfer from the center of the cut okra into the vermouth,” he explains. “It rounds out the body and mouthfeel of the vermouth while imparting just a light green or vegetal quality to the vermouth. It allows the vermouth flavor to shine hand in hand with the okra while making it a more luscious product from the oils imparted from the okra.”

Cheers to trying something new.