In a world thirsty for new experiences, fat-washed cocktails have found their place in the hearts and glasses of intrepid tipplers. These daring libations graced the menus of Denver’s swankiest cocktail lounges and gastronomic havens, causing furrowed brows and intrigued murmurs among the curious and the brave. Yes, you heard right. Fat-washed cocktails are a thing. And a damn tasty thing at that.
Fat-washing isn’t exactly a newfangled idea, but the technique gained notoriety in 2007 when Don Lee, a pioneer of modern mixology, rocked the boat with his Bacon Old Fashioned at New York’s famed PDT speakeasy. This smoky, savory elixir, boasting bacon-infused bourbon, ignited a mixology movement, spawning a kaleidoscope of fat-washed spirits.
At its greasy heart, fat-washing is a straightforward infusion method that marries the flavor and texture of fat with your poison of choice. The alcohol acts as a solvent, coaxing out soluble flavor compounds from the fat. Chill the mixture, and the fat solidifies, making it easy to discard while leaving behind a spirit rich in flavor and aroma. Bacon fat, duck fat, olive oil, and avocado—if it’s succulent and fatty, it’s fair game. And the spirits? Anything goes, though bourbon and rum seem to be the frontrunners.
But any type of liquid can be imbued with the essence of fat. At Guard and Grace, Bénédictine herbal liqueur is imbued with the essence of A5 Japanese Wagyu tallow—fat from the world’s finest cut of beef—for the High Roller Vieux Carré. The cocktail was the runner-up in The Ritual, a competition meant to challenge and inspire mixologists across the Front Range to create a custom cocktail “ritual” that captured the essence of all that a true hospitality experience should entail. Guard and Grace’s bartender Pike crafted the cocktail to match the restaurant’s M.O. of elevated excellence.
“We are known for our steaks,” says Guard and Grace bartender Pike. “We wanted to use that flavor profile to put on dinner and a show here.”
Crafted with premium ingredients inspired by the kitchen—including the A5-washed Bénédictine and soju bitters—combined with a velvety smooth cognac and single-barrel bourbon, the High Roller is then smoked tableside in a CreativeChef smoking dome to bring out striking notes of umami. The resulting cocktail earned a spot on the restaurant’s drink menu, with a $100 price tag that lives up to its name. But it’s worth it. “We did an A5 Japanese beef-fat washed Benedictine to really add some complexity to the cocktail,” says Pike. “And a little bit of soju bitters—it just brings out a little bit more umami from the beef fat.”
Why bother with the extra effort? The answer is hidden in the layers of complexity and depth that fat-washing brings to the table (or the bar, in this case). Fats enhance mouthfeel, creating a silky caress that lingers on the palate. Fat-washing uncovers flavor compounds otherwise elusive, revealing unexpected dimensions in classic cocktails. Bourbon undergoes a metamorphosis when washed with bacon grease, emerging as a smoky, savory sensation. Coconut oil imbues a tropical twist to rum or gin, while butter bestows whiskey with a velvety warmth.
By embracing locally-sourced ingredients and flavors that harmonize with their culinary masterpieces, Denver’s establishments have made fat-washed cocktails a natural extension of their menus—and you’ll find them on lots and lots of menus around town. If you’re intrigued and want to get a taste of what this rising trend is all about, we’ve got some suggestions for you. We scoured menus at restaurants, bars, and cocktail lounges all over town so you don’t have to. Here are some of our favorite spots to raise a glass to all things fat-washed:
Masala Chai Old Fashioned: Savor the rich flavors of coconut-washed bourbon, chai syrup’s warmth, and a twist of orange peel.
Far From Yokohama: Explore the exotic fusion of coconut-washed Toki Whisky, herbal Bénédictine, sweet Demerara, and aromatic Angostura bitters.
No Name: This cocktail doesn’t have a name but it has all sorts of tropical flavors, thanks to a blend of coconut-washed Campari, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum, and floral Italicus.
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I Like Me Butter: A velvety mix of brown butter-washed Legent bourbon, Ararat VS, Maraska walnut liqueur, Nardini, Angostura, and orange bitters, this concoction is a perfect complement to Chef Amos Watts’ dishes.
The White Lotus: A delicate balance of sesame-washed Denver Distillery Shochu, smoky mezcal, fresh lime juice, and grapefruit cordial.
Patience & Fortitude (AKA The Library Lions): A refined blend of brown-butter washed bourbon, Luxardo, Allspice Dram, and a touch of citrus.
High Roller Vieux Carre: Treat yourself to the luxurious combination of Rémy XO, Garrison Bros. Single Barrel, A5 fat-washed Bénédictine, shoyu bitters, and table-smoked presentation.
Not Richard But Dick: Embrace the unexpected with coconut oil fat-washed bourbon, warm allspice, zesty pineapple citrus, and a smooth egg white finish.
Sage It Ain’t So: A harmony of brown butter bourbon, fragrant sage, nutty sherry, black walnut, and sweet honey.
Second Breakfast: Relish in the comforting mix of brown butter bourbon, bitter Amaro, sweet apricot, and rich maple syrup.
Foul Play: An enticing blend of duck fat-washed Woodford Reserve, Amaro Montenegro, St. George Spiced Pear, and Plum Bitters.
Espresso Martini: Energize your senses with brown butter Family Jones vodka, rich Caffé Borghetti, and a hint of vanilla.
Butter on Broad: A bold fusion of brown butter washed bourbon, Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, earthy Averna, and zesty orange bitters.
Boss Hogg: A smoky mix of guanciale-washed Milagro reposado tequila, fragrant rosemary simple syrup, old-fashioned bitters, and a touch of mezcal.
2: Venture into the exotic with coconut-washed Rhum Agricole, spiced pandan cordial, and tiki bitters. This unique concoction is best suited for those who appreciate tropical funkiness.
Churn’t Up: A robust blend of chermoula butter-washed bourbon, spiced pear liqueur, Amaro Jelinek, and a splash of lemon.
Margarita: Delight in the rich flavors of avocado-infused Rey Campero Mezcal, Dry Curaçao, piquant red onion, and refreshing tomato water.
Heaven Help Me: Indulge in the savory notes of olive oil-washed Chopin vodka, house olive brine, and a touch of caviar.
Duck Variations: A unique blend of duck fat whiskey, sweet pear, and aromatic rosemary.
Butter Pecan Old Fashioned: A smooth combination of Bulleit Rye, butter pecan-washed Amaro Nonino, turbinado syrup, and a dash of bitters.
Crop-Circles: An enchanting fusion of coconut-washed Forthave Aperitivo, coconut-washed Peychaud’s bitters, Lustau Palo Cortado sherry, and Lustau Pedro Ximénez sherry.