Whenever you are at a party, make it a point to strike up a conversation with a stranger — you never know what you might learn. A couple of weeks ago, Eliza and I attended a friend's birthday party at the Helix Lounge, a trendy hotel bar in the Logan Circle neighborhood. Over a few of the establishment's fanciful concoctions, we started to discuss the relative merits of various liquors with our table mates. One of our new friends (I can't remember her name — too many "Cool as a Cucumbers", I fear) turned us on to the existence of bacon infused bourbon. "Surely," I thought, "This cannot be real. I am not that good a person." A few days and a little internet research later, I confirmed that, despite my moral failings, the Lord has indeed blessed the world with so grand a creation — nature's two most perfect foods, fused as one!
Of course, the corporate fat cats of Big Liquor are too busy with their acai vodkas and lychee flavored cognacs to see the beauty of baconated bourbon, so if I wanted to indulge, I realized I would have to make it myself. The most prominent recipe on the net is one from the April 2008 edition of New York Magazine. I adapted it as follows:
- Fry three pieces of bacon until done.
- Eat bacon, with pancakes.
- Pour approx. two tablespoons of now cool bacon grease into 375 ml of Jim Beam bourbon.
- Infuse at room temperature for approx. six hours.
- Strain mixture through mesh into sealable container, and store in freezer overnight to separate fat.
- Strain liquor through coffee filter into clean bottle.
The result smelled... interesting, but I felt a bit hollow inside: I was all psyched up for bacon infused bourbon, dammit, not bacon-fat infused! Before jumping in for a taste, I thought I might take some liberties with the process. I purchased a second pint of Beam, and whipped up my own recipe:
- Fry three pieces of bacon until WELL done.
- Do not eat bacon (pancakes are permissible).
- Place three slices of bacon, and pour ALL the grease, into 375 ml of Jim Beam bourbon.
- Leave on counter. Watch three episodes of Iron Chef Japan.
- Strain into sealable container, place in freezer overnight.
- Strain again through coffee filter... and repeat once more, for good measure.
There. Now I had two samples, just enough for a proper experiment. I tasted about one finger of each sample with a single ice cube, and then with a 1:1 ratio with Fever Tree Ginger Ale. Here are my results:
Sample One: New York Magazine Adaptation
Appearance: Slightly cloudy and yellow. Decidedly thicker looking than straight Jim Beam.
Nose: Maple and a savory/fatty component; less evident alcohol than straight.
Taste: Salty and quite heavy on the palate, with a pronounced note of used cooking oil. Alcohol and natural sweetness sublimated by fat. Finish lingers for several minutes with a buttery sensation reminiscent of taking a swig of old whipping cream from the carton.
With Ginger Ale:
Smell: Rancid. Cloying sweetness with the hint of something rotting.
(No joke, I actually did vomit when I first tasted this. The combination of fat with the sweet, carbonated liquid was horrifying. I tried again several hours later, but could not help but spit it out as soon as humanly possible).
Sample Two: Rob's Personal Recipe
Appearance: Orange/Yellow. Clear, but with visible particulate matter, despite numerous filtrations.
Nose: Instant aroma of smoke and burnt meat, with just a hint of bitter chocolate.
Taste: Light, with the traditional bourbon texture, though a bit less bite. Breakfast flavors of maple and bacon dominate the front palate, leading to a smoky, clean finish.
With Ginger Ale:
Smell: Spicy, salty, and smoky.
Taste: An odd combination of salty and sweet — almost reminiscent of scotch. Finish is clean, with similar flavors persisting.
Okay, so the New York recipe was made with a particular cocktail in mind, and I realize now that there is a reason for that. When combined with maple syrup and other flavorful ingredients, this liquor may add a pleasant accent; as the primary player, it is abhorrent. I was quite pleased with the results of my second trial — I think the shorter contact time with the flavoring agent yielded a lighter, more fragrant product with a wider range of applications. Also, it didn't make me throw up like the other one did.
Though this experiment obviously didn't result in the ambrosia I'd anticipated, if you are a fellow fan of booze and meat, I suggest you give it a shot. Also, feel free to explore the wider world of meated beverages — personally, I see great potential in the field of chorizo-infused tequila...