For the adventurous types who would like to experiment with a bacon cocktail at home, I asked acclaimed bar chef JP Caceres how to make a bacon-flavored liquor. JP is no stranger to meaty drinks – his recipe for a Manhattan garnished with bacon-infused maraschino cherries won second place in the United States at the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Challenge.
I am invited to his drink laboratory, which is located above the DC hotspot Dirty Martini. JP has designed a menu of delightful cocktails, all forged from homemade syrups, fresh fruit juices, and his unique infusions. His staff prepares over 35 liters of freshly made syrups every week.
The lab is equipped with two burners, a walk-in refrigerator full of produce and shelves of bottles filled with liquid works-in-progress. JP is a perfectionist who hones each recipe until it reaches pure excellence. “Whenever I create a new cocktail,” he says, “I do a lot of them, because you never know what is going to work.”
JP has offered to share his fat-washing technique for infusing liquor. His is making pork belly seasoned rum and also infusing St Germain elderflower liqueur and vodka with pork (or bacon) fat. The pieces of pork belly are the same mouthwatering morsels that are fried and featured on Dirty Martini’s appetizer list. The fresh pork fat comes from Red Apron Butchery, one of the vendors at the DuPont Circle and Penn Quarter farmers markets.
For each type of liquor, the technique is the same. JP starts the process by browning the meat in a frying pan until the fat is melted and liquefied. Next he takes a sterilized canning jar and measures three cups of alcohol in each one. After letting the fat chill slightly, he adds one cup of fat to the liquor. It is important to cool the fat for two reasons – one so you do not crack or melt the container – and two – so the mixture does not curdle. He uses a three-to-one ratio of liquor to fat. For an extra punch, he tops each jar with solid pieces of the cooked pork before sealing, labeling and dating each container.
It’s easy to see how JP’s restaurant background has inspired his alcoholic creations. Before fronting the bar at places like Bourbon Steak and Dirty Martini, he worked as a cook at two Jose Andres’ outposts, Jaleo and Oyamel. JP uses his fat-washing technique to bring an umami flavor to his cocktails. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It is often described as richness or deliciousness. It is derived from the Japanese word umami, which translates to pleasant, savory taste.
The infusion process takes about five days to complete. The length of time varies with the type of alcohol – the higher the proof the quicker the flavors will meld. After sitting for a few days, the fat and liquid will separate, with the fat forming a hard cover on top of the alcohol. To complete the process, JP skims the solidified fat from the top of the jar and strains the liquor through double cheesecloth. The result is a rich and meaty brew.
JP has used fat-washed St Germain for his Manhattans, while the pork belly rum will be featured in a new cocktail, The El Presidente Gordo, at his outdoor summer tikki bar on the second floor of Dirty Martini. The El Presidente Gordo is a tangy tipple that includes orange curacao, white vermouth, freshly made grenadine, and orange bitters.
So the next time you’re craving the unmistakable crisp and smoky taste of bacon, take a moment to ponder your options – Do you want it in breakfast form? Or how about atop a juicy burger? Or possibly something sweet? Or maybe the best of both worlds – you can have your bacon and drink it too!
Bacon has been popping up everywhere since the mid 2000s – from chocolates to ice cream to even cupcakes. It was only natural that cocktails became the next step in the bacon proliferation. Vodka, which has been flavored with everything from cucumber to Fruit Loops, was the first liquor to be “baconzied.” Bakon, a commercially-made flavored vodka is available in several local liquor stores. Bacon Bloody Mary’s can be found on menus at J. Pauls and Restaurant 3. Next we saw more creative bartenders pairing bacon’s smoky flavor with the sweetness of bourbon. Bacon whiskey cocktails have popped up at Massa 14 and Proof.
Dirty Martini: 1223 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; 202-503-2640; www.dirtymartinidc.com
(Using JP Caceres’ fat-washing technique)
8-12 ounces pork fat or bacon
3 cups liquor (Your choice)
Brown meat until you have at least one cup liquid. Remove fat from heat. Fill a canning jar or plastic container with three cups of liquor. Once the fat has cooled slightly, add one cup to container. Add additional pieces of fat or bacon on top. Seal container and let sit at room temperature for five days. Remove the solidified fat and strain liquid through double cheesecloth. Yields three cups of liquor.