This Is The Old Fashioned That Popularized Fat-Washing Cocktails

The story of how fat-washing secured its place in bartender lore isn't common knowledge although it should be. The technique involved a classic drink, the Benton's Old Fashioned. Fat-washing cocktails was an outlandish idea developed in the early 2000s, marking a time when the art of craft cocktails was having a moment.

The Benton's Old Fashioned was named for the hickory-smoked Benton's bacon that Please Don't Tell (PDT) bartender Don Lee used to make that first drink. Lee told cocktails culture publication Punch that fat-washing was a riff off enfleurage, an art of pressing flowers into oil to create perfume. The technique of enfleurage had sparked conversation among innovative chefs and bartenders on the New York craft cocktail scene but hadn't quite developed into anything substantial at the time.

One night, Lee was enjoying a dish from Momofuku Ssäm Bar and thought, "This is the best bacon I've ever had." He asked for the leftover bacon fat, brought it home, and started working the enfleurage technique with the bacon fat and whiskey. When he'd perfected it, it entailed 2 ounces of bacon fat-infused bourbon, ¼ ounce of maple syrup, and a couple of dashes of bitters, garnished with an orange peel. PDT added it to their drinks menu, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The cocktail-drinking public loved the drink and wanted more. Fat-washing as a technique has become so popular that today, various combinations of fat-washed cocktails are now featured in bars and restaurants around the world.

You can (and should!) fat-wash cocktails at home

Although a fat-wash cocktail is an elevated experience, you don't have to be an expert bartender to pull off a fat-wash concoction of your own. The process takes time, but it is especially home-mixologist-friendly. There are no expensive tools needed, the steps are straightforward and as long as you choose complementary flavors, you can use the spirits and fats you have on hand.

The principle behind this technique is to flavor your alcohol with liquified fat. To keep the flavor but not the fat, thoroughly shake up your fat and alcohol in a jar and let the flavors intermingle and infuse at room temperature for several hours. After four or five hours, pop the jar in the freezer. Following an overnight freeze, you simply bore a hole into the coagulated fat, pour out your alcohol, and strain it using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Consider starting by making small batches of your fat-washed alcohol. When you're ready, larger portions can be preserved in the refrigerator for up to a week.

The process is simple, but you do need to play with your fat-to-alcohol ratio, depending on the pungency of your fat and the dominance of your alcohol. Don't hold back with getting creative with the fats you choose. From a brown butter wash to duck fat to various cheeses, curiosity and innovation are the cornerstone of the fat-washing technique.