A bacon-infused liquor is a novelty. It's not something you'll probably drink regularly, but its perfect for making up cocktails for a party. With that in mind, I set out to make bacon vodka and bacon bourbon for a New Year's Day brunch I was planning.
For both, I tried the "fat washing" method. This is where you mix bacon grease into the alcoholic beverage in the belief that many of the fat-soluble flavor compounds are also alcohol-soluble and will transfer. Give them some time to transfer flavor, then strain out the fat. While most of the infusion recipes suggested putting slices of cooked bacon in a jar of alcohol and storing it in a dark cool place for a week or two, the fat washing recipes said to pour the fat in, let it sit a few hours, freeze to solidify the fat, and strain.
First I tried the bourbon and followed a recipe I'd seen that said to wash it for 4 hours, then freeze for 90 minutes. It also mentioned that keeping it at a slightly elevated temperature would help the fat get the most contact with the alcohol.
I tried this with a fifth of Jim Beam and 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from my bacon jar (yes, I save bacon grease in a jar for cooking), that turned out to be about 2 ounces when warmed up. I stirred it in with a spoon and let the booze and grease have 4 hours together, repeatedly giving the jar warm/hot water baths and occasionally shaking it. I froze it for 90 minutes, strained off the fat, and made a bourbon old fashioned (2 oz bourbon, 1 tsp maple syrup, 2 dashes bitters).
I'd read that the bacon flavor wouldn't hit you up front, but come in as a smoky note on the back end. It did that on the first sip, but then the bacon flavor dwindled and it just tasted like bourbon and maple syrup. In a later taste of the bourbon, I didn't get much bacon at all.
So, for the bacon vodka, I went "whole hog" (please excuse the pun). I oven baked a pound of Cloverfield hickory smoked bacon...
- line a baking pan with foil
- line that with bacon
- set oven to 400 degrees
- put bacon in while the oven preheats
- cook 20-30 minutes until done to your liking
Starting the bacon off in a cold pan in a cold oven ensures you'll render the maximum amount of fat.
After the bacon was cooked, I drained off the hot fat (about 2.5 ounces) and whisked it into my room-temperature Vodka, then sealed the jar. Periodically I would heat the mixture via either a hot water bath or 40 seconds in the microwave, then give it a good stirring with the whisk. But instead of letting it sit for 4 hours, I let it sit for 26, and I let it freeze overnight. The vodka that was produced had a much more pronounced bacon flavor and smell. This is what I expected bacon vodka to taste and smell like.
So, if you're planning to fat wash some booze, here are my tips.
- Use fresh cooked bacon fat right from the oven.
- Use the renderings from a pound of bacon per 750 ml of liquor
- Whisk the fat and booze together rather than stirring.
- Periodically warm and re-whisk
- Let it sit at least 24 hours before freezing