When you sit down to eat a juicy steak, which do you prefer to sink your teeth into: the meat, or the fat? For most people, the answer is the meat. In fact, many people will end up trimming the fat off entirely. But even if you like your steaks lean, there’s no denying that a layer of soft fat gives the steak flavor. The idea that fat makes a dish tasty is the inspiration behind fat-washing, a technique that infuses spirits with lard, olive oil, and other greasy components.
Steak fat in your tumbler of whiskey might seem gross at first, because you probably don’t want your Old Fashioned served jiggly and slippery. However, fat-washing actually doesn’t change the consistency of a spirit – much. Instead, the flavors from various fats (think everything from bacon fat to sesame oil) bloom life into the liquor via a freezing process. Here’s how it works:
You start off by liquifying your fat of choice, if it isn’t already. In a container, such as a mason jar, mix the fat with a spirit. After sealing the container as tightly as possible, leave the mixture to chill in the freezer until the fat solidifies again. Scrape as much fat off as you can, then strain the remaining liquid. You’ll be left with flavored booze. Realistically speaking, it’s not possible to strain out all of the fat, so the texture of the spirit might be a little slick, but it certainly won’t feel like chomping into a cube of lard.
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Fat-washing isn’t an ancient drinking tradition being reignited – it’s a relatively new “mixology” practice that’s been popularized by trendy cocktails like the bacon infused Old Fashioned at New York City’s PDT (Please Don’t Tell). However, the idea of using fat for flavor is as old as time: look at your latest stir fry creation or the perfume you’re spritzing on. Fat doesn’t just mean solid animal fat, it can be truffle oil or butter.
While you probably don’t want to fat-wash your whole liquor collection, try the technique at home with a more neutral spirit, like vodka or white rum. You can go nuts with ingredients that are probably lying around your house. And here’s a bonus: fat-washing doesn’t really increase a spirit’s calories, so feel free to have a side of fries with your martini. Here’s a recipe to try at home:
1 750 ml Bottle vodka
1-1.5 ounces Duck Fat
Warm the duck fat in a saucepan on low heat until it’s liquified. Mix the fat with the vodka in a large glass container (make sure it’s heat proof). Let the mixture infuse for about 3-4 hours before sticking it the freezer. Wait until the fat has solidified (it should take a couple hours), then remove. Scrape off all of solid fat, then strain the rest through a cheesecloth. Enjoy with a splash of vermouth or orange juice.
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