dark bar with clear cocktail on wood table

Fat-Washed Cocktails Add Heft to Denver Drink Menus

Bars across the city create innovative drinks with inspiration taken from culinary traditions, garnishing cocktails with a savory twist.

BY Steph Wilson

SHARE

Fat-washed cocktails utilize a simple technique that makes an impact, so it’s not surprising innovative bartenders employ it and experiment with a wide range of flavors and textures. Fat-washing brings richness, body, and weight to a drink without the need for excessive spirits, liqueurs, artificial flavors, or sugary components. 

Instead, it allows umami to take its rightful place on the bartender’s flavor wheel next to bitter, sweet, sour, and spice. A fat-washed spirit is a spirit transformed, enriched with a fat’s flavors without its calories. Its essence without its overt presence.

The History

Most fat-washed cocktails before, say 2018, there’s a solid chance came bacon-washed and with bourbon. Invented in New York City in 2007 by legendary bartender Don Lee at PDT, the Benton’s Old Fashioned launched the trend. According to mixology lore, Lee took inspiration from the enfleurage method developed by 18th century perfume makers to concoct the now famous cocktail. 

When the fat-washed cocktail trend first began trickling out of NYC and into forward-thinking mixology markets far and wide, bacon grease was the fat of choice. Pioneering mixologists found that infusing its essence into a barrel-aged dark spirit not only soaked in the flavor of bacon, but also improved the texture of the spirit. Bacon-washing bourbon results in a subtle, smokey-salty undertone and rich texture that sings of the breakfast meat without an overbearing thickness or heaviness. Today’s culinary-driven bartenders realized bacon is just the beginning. 

The Process

clear cocktail with bar behind it
La Forêt’s Duke of Mirepoix uses the fat washing method. | Photo by Steph Wilson

“You can basically use any fat you want, butter, beef tallow, pork fat, whatever,” said Mason Nack, a bartender at the brand-new Le Forêt, a cocktail-forward French spot in the former Beatrice & Woodsley space on South Broadway. Fat, he added, becomes soluble in alcohol, so when it’s infused into a spirit the aromatics and flavors of the fat come through, but not the unctuousness. 

At its core, the method consists of a simple trick of the trade. Nack advised, “Add the fat to a spirit, mix it together, and let it infuse at room temperature for a bit, then stick it in the freezer.” As it freezes, the fat separates from the liquid, forming a cap on top of the spirit that’s easy to separate from the liquid below. Remove the fat cap and strain the liquid to filter out any solids. What remains is a spirit transformed. 

At Le Forêt, the process employed to make the Duke of Mirepoix, which Nack describes as a blend of fat-washing and milk punch. On the menu, the drink is described as “gin, celery cordial, lime acid, whey, carbonation.” 

What Makes a Spirit Fat-Washed

Just how Champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, all clarified cocktails technically are fat-washed (with whole milk for the most part), but not all fat-washed cocktails are clarified. 

Nack explained:  “When you mix whole milk into a cocktail with any kind of citrus in it, the citrus causes the milk fat to curdle, and those curds act as a filter that pulls out heavy particles and colors.” In the end only the whey remains.  

The whey contains water, milk sugars, proteins, and minerals, and it can act as a carrier for the cocktail’s flavors. This helps distribute the nuances evenly throughout the drink. The proteins and sugars in whey binds with other flavor compounds, potentially altering the drink’s taste profile in subtle, complex ways. 

Also, says Nack, “What the process does is take away most, if not all, of the color from a cocktail. It makes it completely transparent but maintains all of the flavor while enhancing its mouthfeel—makes it a little richer while still having that acidic punch to it. So if you were to do, say, a margarita, it;s still gonna taste just like a margarita, but it’s going to be a lot silkier, a lot smoother.” 

On the other hand fat-washing is a technique where a spirit becomes infused with a fat in order to add depth and flavor. “It kind of does the same thing as the milk wash without the clarifying part of it,” says Nack. “It infuses the flavor and improves the texture of the spirit. This makes it a little richer, a little smoother while infusing all that flavor, too.” 

Meat-Forward Cocktails

marble table with cocktail on it and bacon
Try the fat-washed cocktail at Welton Room in Five Points. | Photo by Linnea Covington

Why stop at bacon? In Denver, creative bartenders forge fatty new paths of culinary-driven cocktails that push the boundaries of mixology. At Honey Elixir Bar, a pancetta fat-washed rum comprises allspice dram, pineapple, cherry, brown sugar, and saline to make the Freyr’s Brew. At Welton Room, duck fat-washed whiskey meets maple syrup and rhubarb bitters for a savory old fashioned. Williams & Graham’s Flabbergasted uses chicken fat-infused Balvenie DoubleWood 12. Moving on to Retrograde, that hidden bar inside Sweet Action Ice Cream in Uptown, the Voyage Into Space features a base of chorizo-washed mezcal. 

Choose Your Fat (Vegan Too)

While rich animal fats complement the flavor profiles of barrel-aged whiskeys, it doesn’t always work well in lighter spirits. When washed with a gin or a vodka, animal fat tends to dominate the resulting flavor. Plant-based fats on the other hand prove easier to work with. They tend to be more shelf-stable so the prep is less extensive and the result less likely to spoil. Enter a whole line of vegan-friendly fat-washed cocktails. 

A full range of oils can be used to fat-wash spirits, including those sourced from olives, sesame, peanut, coconut, and avocado, among others. At The Family Jones Spirit House, a sesame-washed gin offers a nuanced foundation to the Cold Lovers Waltz. The cocktail’s botanical sharpness is mellowed out by the nutty, toasted depth of sesame. 

At Room for Milly, My Dearest Pike becomes anchored by the grassy, earthy tones of coconut-washed Rhum Agricole. Head to Deviation Distilling, for an entire menu dedicated to fat-washed cocktails featuring the distiller’s own spirits. For example, hazelnut-washed Citrus Rosé gin in the Hasel & Spice. There’s also a feta olive oil-washed gin, in the Deviate From the Norm. The Mango Lassi, the pistachio-washed blood orange gin creates nutty and bright citrusy nuances. 

Taste for yourself what a big difference it can make at the aforementioned spots and other venues around town. 

bar with pink chairs and wall
Room For Milly offers a fat-washed cocktail, and the server will happily tell guests all about it. | Photo by David Lauer Photography

Where To Find Fat-Washed Cocktails

Below find a comprehensive list of the current fat-washed cocktail offerings, all by type of fat. These change, but chances are if the venue offers one now, it will continue to do othesr using this technique.

For Meat-Washed Cocktails

Atomic Cowboy’s Breakfast of Champions (Fat House bacon whiskey, maple, Kahlua, aromatic bitters)

B&GC’s The Return of the Duke Silver (bacon-washed bourbon, Scotch, maple, black walnut, orange)

Bistro LeRoux’s Ibiza Lope (jamon-washed Union mezcal, cantaloupe-tarragon shrub, 10-year tawny port)

Corrida’s Los Islenos (A5 fat-washed 10-year Jura single malt Scotch, Bigallet China-China Amer, Hateruma Island brown sugar, tiki bitters)

Guard and Grace’s High-Roller Vieux Carre (Remy XO, Garrison Bros single barrel, A5 fat-washed Bénédictine, shoyu bitters, table smoked)

The Greenwich’s Insomniac City (Four Roses bacon-washed bourbon, sweet vermouth, Cynar, Luxardo, walnut bitters)

Honey Elixir Bar’s Freyr’s Brew (pancetta fat-washed rum, allspice dram, pineapple, cherry, brown sugar)

Jovanina’s Buron Giorno (bacon-washed bourbon, vanilla, maple, and espresso liqueur)

Rioja’s Boss Hogg (guanciale-washed Milagro reposado tequila, rosemary simple syrup, old fashioned bitters, mezcal)

Temaki Den’s Juushi Ushi (A5 wagyu-washed Makers Mark bourbon, maple syrup, black walnut bitters)

Welton Room’s Duck Fat Washed Old Fashioned (duck-fat washed whiskey, maple syrup, rhubarb bitters) 

Williams & Graham Flabbergasted (chicken fat-infused Balvenie DoubleWood 12-year-old Scotch, Iichiko Silhouette shochu, Tio Pepe fino sherry, sesame oil-infused Haku vodka, Luxardo sambuca, soy sauce)

For Coconut-Washed Cocktails

wood tables with black chairs
Take a seat at Citizen Rail and indulge in a fat-washed drink along with a wood-fired steak. | Photo by Citizen Rail

Citizen Rail’s Far From Yokohama (coconut-washed Toki whisky, benedictine, demerara, angostura)

Culinary Dropout’s D.K.’s Daiquiri (coconut-washed Bahez mezcal, white rum, Giffard banana liqueur, pressed lime, Don Q Añejo rum)

Punch Bowl Social’s Broadway Boulevardier (coconut-washed Makers Mark bourbon, strawberry-infused Campari, Punt a Mes vermouth, orange)

Room for Milly’s My Dearest Pike (coconut-washed Rhum Agricole, spiced pandan cordial, tiki bitters)

Sap Sua’s Black Mamba (coconut-washed bourbon, banana, amaro)

For Sesame-Washed Cocktails

The Family Jones’ Cold Lovers Waltz (Juniper Jones sesame-fat washed gin, yuzu, egg white)

The Ginger Pig’s The White Lotus (sesame-washed Denver Distillery shochu, mezcal, fresh lime juice, grapefruit cordial)

Pony Up’s Señora Vibes (sesame-washed tequila, mezcal, guajillo pepper)

For Nut-Washed Cocktails

bar with fresh herbs in glass and pink bottle of gin and orange
Head to Dairy Block for detailed menu of fat-washed cocktails at Deviation Distilling. Photo by Deviation Distilling

Deviation Distilling’s Peanut Butter Old Fashioned (peanut butter-washed bourbon, mocha whiskey, walnut bitters, aztec bitters, toasted marshmallow)

Poka Lola Social Club: The Snowbird (hazelnut-washed Zacapa 23, banana, chocolate)

Urban Farmer’s Butter Pecan Old Fashioned (Bulleit rye, butter pecan-washed Nonino amaro, turbinado syrup, bitters)

For Butter- and Cheese-Washed Cocktails

hand holding cocktail
Try the Dueling Hongos at this Boulder hot spot. | Photo by Oak at Fourteenth

B&GC’s Artichoke Negroni (Artichoke gin, Parmesan-washed Cocchi Americano, Blanc Vermouth, celery bitters)

Bezel’s “Smoked” Paloma (Mijenta reposado, macadamia nut fat-washed coconut rum, guava and grapefruit cordial, hibiscus tea fat-washed in paprika olive oil)

Goldpoint’s Emmylou (popcorn-washed rum, dark rum, spiced syrup, Creole bitters, cream soda pipette) 

Oak at Fourteenth’s Under the Momiji (brown butter-washed Hibiki Harmony, maple syrup, baking spices, Angostura bitters)

Poka Lola’s Shortcake Shimmy (cream cheese-washed Espolon Blanco, strawberry balsamic, citrus—Strawberry Shortcake vibes)

Range’s Buttered Rum Negroni (brown butter-washed Appleton estate rum, Montenegro, Carpano Antica vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters)

Rioja’s Brown Butter Rye (brown butter-washed whiskey, butternut squash simple syrup, old fashioned bitters)

Safta’s Leather and Wood (butter-washed rum & scotch, spiced pear, demerara)

Williams & Graham’s Pizazz (brown butter-infused Trinity Absinthe, vanilla orgeat, lemon)

For Olive-Oil-Washed Cocktails

Restaurant Olivia’s House Martini (olive oil-washed gin or vodka)

El Five’s El Five Martini (olive oil fat-washed Jones House gin or vodka, Manzanilla sherry, house olive brine, lemon oil)

Family Jones Spirit House’s Allesandra (Annika Jones Vodka infused with calabrian chili extra virgin olive oil, with lemon oil Jones House blanc)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steph Wilson

Steph Wilson is a writer, editor, and creative maximalist in Denver. She makes magazines for a living and throws color around the world like confetti for fun.
Search

COPYRIGHT © 2009–2024, DININGOUT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED