It's an unappealing term, like something you might hear on the National Geographic Channel to describe bathing a whale.
It sounds a little icky, fat washing.
Mixologists instead often use the term infused for the same delicious result, melding flavor with liquor. Rendered duck fat can add additional roundness to whiskey. Pecan oil provides a nutty suggestion in vodka. Most any fatty substance will suffice — bacon, butter, avocados, you name it.
"I have done it since we opened," says bartender Thomas "T" Leggett, who fat-washes every week for the Roosevelt's brunch bacon Bloody Mary.
"We didn't have mescal when I started," he says, "and I wanted a smoke element that wasn't scotch to a cocktail I was featuring. Fat washing, or infusing Benton's bacon fat, gives a Bloody Mary a hickory element that is really enjoyable. I personally think it works best for vodka."
It's a tasty trick with science on its side. In very basic terms, your choice of alcohol attaches and absorbs some flavors from your choice of fat. The process: Add the chosen fat to the chosen liquor. Allow the mixture to sit so the fat starts to separate and solidify. And then remove the solid fat and start mixing your cocktail.
Leggett suggests freezing the fat-washed mixture, saying nothing ruins an infused cocktail more than leftover oils.
Bartender Bobby Kruger of Osaka Sushi and Steak on River Road is using legumes to fat wash in some of his cocktails. He has a peanut-washed dark rum to use in a mai tai, and has used peanut-washed bourbon for a twist on a whiskey buck.
"While fat washing with a nut or legume doesn't alter the texture nearly as much as bacon or duck fat will," he says, "it does wonders for the nose and the end palate."
If you're just beginning, Kruger says, tinkering with the combinations can be fun. But he suggests working with a light wash to augment a sipping whiskey and a more heavy handed approach for a cocktail. The longer it sits, he says, the stronger the flavor. S
T Leggett's Benton's Bacon Brunch Mary
2 ounces of bacon-washed Tito's
2 dashes of hot sauce
Top with Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix
Add 2 ounces bacon washed Tito's vodka to a pint glass. Add two dashes Tabasco. Fill glass with ice and top with Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix. Quick shake in a mixing tin to combine thoroughly and garnish with a pickle.
Bobby Kruger's Mai Thai
2 ounces peanut-washed dark rum
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice - keep the juiced half lime
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
1/2 ounce peanut orgeat
8 ounces crushed ice
Add all ingredients to a shaker and garnish with a few pieces of candied ginger and the juiced lime half.Editor's note: The print version of the story misspelled the name of Kruger's drink, Mai Thai, a play on the drink's ingredients.