How to make buttered popcorn rum: a fat washing recipe

Buttered Popcorn Rum

This buttered popcorn rum recipe is a great way to get started with fat washing spirits.

  • 700 ml aged rum
  • 50 grams popcorn ((fresh-popped and unsalted))
  • 50 grams clarified butter ((or ghee))
  1. Add popcorn to a large mason jar; fill with 700ml rum.
  2. Let infuse for one hour before straining out the popcorn.
  3. Add hot clarified butter to the jar. Shake the jar and leave to infuse for two hours.
  4. Place mixture into the freezer for a further two hours, until the fat solidifies, then strain through muslin and bottle.

Adapted from a recipe by Don Lee in The PDT Cocktail Book.


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.

This story first appeared in Australian Bartender in October 2012.