Now, in case you don’t live in a huge city and/or do have a “normal” job that keeps you from all that pesky, cutting-edge day-drinking you’ve be meaning to do; fat-washing is the term for infusing a liquor with a flavorful fatty substance. Simply mix liquor with hot fat, steep overnight, freeze, separate the congealed fat and strain through a cheese cloth. Alcohol can emulsify both fat and water-based flavor compounds, so the spirit will not only retain a subtle trace of the original flavor, but it will have a deliciously silky mouth feel, too.
I’ve seen the technique go horribly awry, like the last ten over-crisped bacon washed Bourbon cesspools I’ve had pushed on me at various bars. My only advice for those kinds of cocktails, if you’re going to fat wash with bacon, don’t fry it quickly; render it carefully, so as not to scorch the tiny bits, and use the rendered fat along with the meat.
On the other end of the spectrum, Shawn Soole’s creation, the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Martini, pushed this technique to the next level by washing a dark rum with an extra cheesy, extra buttery, grilled cheese sandwich and then muddling in a roasted tomato. The first time I read about it (last week; I was veeerryy late to the party) I immediately mixed up some Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum with a piece of grilled potato bread and American cheese. Reflecting on that masterpiece over a pastrami sandwich the next day, I got an idea… and here we are at the Pastrami Sazerac.
First, you need to fat-wash some rye whisky.
- 325mL/half-bottle Straight Rye Whisky – I used Michter’s US*1 Straight Rye.
- 30g unsalted butter
- 25g unseeded or seeded rye bread – That’s roughly one slice.
- 50g pastrami – Making your own is, of course, the best way to go: I like this recipe.
- 60g sliced provolone
- Pinch kosher salt
- In a non stick pan melt the butter over medium heat until it stops sizzling. That means that the water has evaporated and your bread will brown much more easily in the fat left behind.
- Throw in the rye bread and pastrami and gently brown, flipping until brown on all sides.
- Remove bread and meat from pan to glass bowl and rip into small pieces when cool enough to handle.
- While the pan is still hot throw in the cheese. Resist the urge to play with it. Once it’s bubbling and starting to brown scrape it and all the fat in the pan into the bowl with the bread and meat.
- Immediately add the whisky to the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let set 4-6 hours at room temperature.
- Strain through a cheese cloth, making sure to squeeze out the bread. Freeze for 4 hours and separate the congealed fat. Strain once more through cheese cloth and keep refrigerated in a sealed bottle. Use within three days.
You can certainly drink the washed rye neat. It’s satiny with a nice sweet saltiness, but I think it deserves a more complex frame so let’s make an obvious decision and blend that new silky spice emulsion into a Sazerac. You may notice I left out the simple syrup. I prefer to take the pastrami sazerac in the salty, buttery direction, instead of sweet. Besides, the Peychaud’s adds enough sweetness for me.
The Pastrami Sazerac
- 2 oz. pastrami sandwich washed rye whiskey
- 2 shakes Peychaud’s bitters
- Absinthe vert
- Fresh lemon peel
- Rinse chilled rocks glass with absinthe and dump.
- In a shaker add washed rye, bitters and ice. Stir to chill and strain into rocks glass.
- Express a lemon peel over drink, wipe around rim of glass.
- Garnish with the lemon peel and serve.