Fat and Fabulous
The finer points on fat washing spirits
By Simon McGoram
Photography by Rob Palmer
Presented by Andres Walters
The Wild Rover
75 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Fat washing sounds like it might be some complicated alchemical technique – something you might want to leave to those wannabe Heston Blumenthals out there. The reality is however that fat washing is a relatively simple process that requires no laboratory equipment nor arcane lore. And the results can be astounding.
Fat washing is merely a process of infusing spirits with molten fat and any can work. Fat’s ability to absorb flavour and aroma was know to man in Ancient Egypt and in the perfume industry the process of infusing fat has a fancy name; enfleurage.
In ‘hot enfleurage’, solid fats are heated and botanical matter – like flowers and petals – are stirred into the fat. Spent botanicals are repeatedly strained from the fat and replaced with fresh material until the fat is saturated with fragrance. This method is considered the oldest known procedure for preserving plant fragrance substances and was used throughout the Ancient world.
During the 19th century the scented fat (called enfleurage pomade) started to be further processed by perfumers by washing it ethyl alcohol to draw the fragrant molecules into the liquid. The alcohol was then easily separated from the fat and allowed to evaporate, leaving behind the ‘absolute’ essence of the botanical matter. The spent fat was usually used to make soaps since it was still relatively fragrant*.
This age old process hasn’t changed except now bartenders have convinced people that letting the alcohol evaporate is just plain silly and that flowers are for foppish dandies. Bacon, burnt butter, popcorn, banana, beef and rosemary and Kentucky Fried Chicken – these are just some the enfleurage pomades bartenders are washing into their booze today.
The technique does require a bit of experimentation to achieve perfect results. Too much fat could render your fat washed spirit unpalatable and ingredients lacking in flavour could result in a poor outcome too. The recipes here are tried and tested though so give them a whirl to get the hang of this whole enfleurage thing.
*True fact. Though I wouldn’t suggest making soap out of the bacon fat left over from your own fat washing experiments.
(adapted from a recipe by Don Lee in The PDT Cocktail Book)
120ml Coca Cola
45ml Buttered popcorn infused 10 Cane rum*
*Buttered Popcorn Rum
700ml 10 Cane rum
50 grams fresh-popped unsalted popcorn
50 grams clarified butter (ghee)
Notes on Ingredients
Clarified butter can be made by melting butter and skimming off the milk solids to leave pure butter fat. If you want to save time keep an eye out for clarified butter or ghee in the supermarket.
10 Cane was created by Moët Hennesey in 2005. Made in Trinidad the rum takes its name from the tradition of hand-harvesting and bundling sugarcane stalks in groups of ten.
Unlike the majority of rums 10 Cane is distilled from a wort fermented over five days from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses – not at all dissimilar to ‘rhum agricole’ made in the French Caribbean islands. The wort is double distilled in French copper pot stills before being aged in French oak barrels. Bottled at 40% abv 10 Cane has a pale golden hue and offers an inviting aroma of fresh cut sugarcane, floral aromas and a hint of pear. The palate remains lively and youthful with vanilla, tropical fruits, citrus and a drying finish.
Useful Fat Washed Spirits Cocktails
Royal Breakfast Fizz
60ml Bacon bourbon*
15ml Lena banana liqueur
1 whole egg
15ml lemon juice
15ml orange juice
5ml maple syrup
Add all ingredients to a shaker, ice and give a mighty shake to emulsify the egg. Strain into a highball glass, top with a splash of soda and garnish with a strip of maple syrup caramelised bacon.
*Infuse 700ml of bourbon with 50 grams of the highest quality bacon fat you can get your hands on for 4-6 hours. Freeze and filter.
50ml Bacon vodka (infused and fat-washed with bacon)
120ml Kilpatrick Mary mix*
And all ingredients to a shaker. Roll and strain into an ice filled tankard. Garnish with a horseradish crisp.
* Kilpatrick Mary mix is made by blending skinless roasted tomatoes with horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, celery salt and black pepper.
Recipe courtesy of The Wild Rover, Sydney