Fat Washing: Revolutionizing Cocktail Flavors and Textures

fat washing cocktails

When I first came across the concept of fat washing cocktail spirits, I was immediately skeptical. Back in April, we did a piece on how to infuse with herbs and botanicals, that is naturally intuitive. Once I understood that we don’t actually leave the fats in the cocktail, I was a little more receptive to the concept. Fat washing stands out as one of the more unique mixology techniques that infuses rich, deep flavors and intriguing textures into cocktails. Originally developed by innovative bartenders looking to push the boundaries of flavor and sensory experience, fat washing allows the seamless integration of fat-soluble flavors from a variety of fats into spirits. This article delves deep into the concept, procedure, and creative applications of fat washing in modern cocktails.

Just imagine a negroni with an infusion of olive oil and rosemary, or an old fashion with essence of maple bacon, starting to see the picture?

What is Fat Washing?

Fat washing is a technique used in mixology to add savory flavors and a silky texture to alcoholic spirits. The process involves mixing a fat, such as butter, bacon grease, or coconut oil, with a spirit, allowing the fat to infuse before freezing the mixture. Once solidified, the fat is removed, leaving the spirit infused with nuanced flavors and a velvety mouthfeel. This method leverages the chemical properties of fats—their ability to dissolve certain flavor compounds not soluble in water or alcohol alone.

The Science Behind Fat Washing

The effectiveness of fat washing lies in the chemistry of fats and alcohols. Fats are able to dissolve flavor molecules that are otherwise insoluble in water and alcohol, capturing complex, subtle tastes and aromas. When fat is mixed with a spirit, it binds with these flavor compounds. By subsequently freezing the mixture, the fat solidifies and can be separated, leaving the spirit enriched with flavors but without greasiness.

How to Fat Wash Spirits

  1. Selection of Fat and Spirit: Choose a high-quality fat that complements the spirit’s base flavors. Common pairings include bacon fat with bourbon or coconut oil with rum.
  2. Infusion: Gently warm the fat to liquid form and mix it with the spirit in a sealed container. The typical ratio is about one ounce of fat per 500 ml of spirit.
  3. Resting Period: Allow the mixture to rest at room temperature for several hours, shaking occasionally to distribute the flavors.
  4. Freezing: Freeze the entire mixture to solidify the fat. This step typically takes several hours or overnight.
  5. Removal of Fat: Once solid, remove the fat cap from the top of the spirit. Fine-strain the liquid to remove any remaining fat particles.
  6. Clarification and Storage: Optionally, clarify the spirit further using filtration methods and store it in a clean bottle.

Applications in Cocktails

fat washed bourbon with bacon fat

Fat-washed spirits are versatile in cocktail crafting. For example, bacon-fat-washed bourbon can be used in a smoky Old Fashioned, or coconut-oil-washed rum in a tropical Piña Colada, adding a creamy texture and complex flavor profile that enhances the drink.

Some Ideas for Fat Washing to Get You Started


Fat washing can enhance the depth and complexity of various spirits by infusing them with flavors from different fats. Here are three examples of fats that are compatible for fat washing with bourbon, gin, vodka, tequila, and rum:

Bourbon

  1. Bacon Fat – Imparts a smoky, savory note that complements the natural sweetness of bourbon.
  2. Brown Butter – Adds a rich, nutty flavor that enhances bourbon’s vanilla and caramel notes.
  3. Duck Fat – Brings a subtle, luxurious meatiness that pairs well with the robust profile of bourbon.

Gin

  1. Olive Oil – Lends a smooth, herbal quality that aligns with gin’s botanicals.
  2. Coconut Oil – Infuses a slight tropical note that can soften gin’s sharp juniper edge.
  3. Almond Oil – Provides a mild, nutty flavor that complements gin’s floral and citrus notes.

Vodka

  1. Coconut Oil – Gives a light, sweet profile that can enhance vodka’s neutrality with a tropical twist.
  2. Hazelnut Oil – Adds a warm, nutty flavor, making a more complex base for cocktails.
  3. Sesame Oil – Introduces a toasty, rich element that can add depth to vodka’s clean taste.

Tequila

  1. Cocoa Butter – Imparts a smooth, chocolatey note that pairs nicely with tequila’s natural earthiness.
  2. Avocado Oil – Brings a buttery richness that complements the bright, sharp notes of tequila.
  3. Chorizo Fat – Adds a spicy, meaty layer that enhances tequila’s bold flavors, perfect for savory cocktails.

Rum

  1. Coconut Oil – Matches well with rum, reinforcing its tropical character with a creamy sweetness.
  2. Peanut Oil – Contributes a subtle, nutty undertone that supports rum’s sweet, molasses-based profile.
  3. Cacao Nibs (infused in a carrier fat like coconut oil) – Adds a chocolatey depth that is excellent with the rich flavors of dark rum.

These fat-washing pairings offer a way to explore unique flavor profiles in cocktails, enhancing the drinking experience by layering additional tastes and textures.

The Takeaway

Fat washing is more than just a technique; it’s a gateway to a new dimension of cocktail creativity. By understanding and applying this method, bartenders and enthusiasts can transform ordinary spirits into extraordinary concoctions with layered flavors and lush textures. As mixology continues to evolve, techniques like fat washing will remain at the forefront, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in a glass.

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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