Shaken, Not Grilled: The Meat Liquor Craze

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So a guy walks into a bar, asks the bartender for a drink. The bartender responds: chicken, pork, or fish? Seems like an implausible scenario or beginning of a joke, right? It's neither.

Distillers are now using meats and fish as a way to flavor their spirits. It seems every conceivable cut and creature is now available to sip.

Two new brands, Alaska Distillery's Salmon Vodka and Black Rock Spirits' Bakon Vodka, are touting their carnivorous ingredients. Is this crass consumerism or simply an inevitable extension of the wide range of flavored spirits? Either way, the use of meat in drinks dates back to the 16th century and possibly before. Cock ale, a beer brewed with a rooster, is just one example. Another is ambergris, an excretion of sperm whales that appears in old punch recipes.

Adam has also added ham fat to tequila but hasn't been able to nail down a recipe for duck fat in spirits. Yet.

One meaty spirit that has a following among bartenders is Del Maguey's Pechuga Mezcal, flavored with fruits and then distilled through a chicken breast. Ron Cooper, the owner of Del Maguey Mezcal, claims that "pechuga" was around before the 1950s and was once made with goat. The chicken version is particularly enticing, with a smoky-barbeque complexity.

For craft bartenders, using a protein in drinks can do just that: add complexity. Therefore, some bartenders are choosing to do it themselves. PDT in New York is well know for their Bacon Old Fashioned, using bacon-infused bourbon, and many other bartenders have tried their hand at porcine infusions.

Adam Bernbach, bar manager of Estadio and Proof in Washington, D.C., has crafted meat-flavored spirits as cocktail ingredients using a technique called fat washing. You simply infuse a spirit with fatty or salty meat and then freeze it to remove solids, leaving behind the flavor and a silky texture. This technique is similar to that used to clarify stocks in cooking.

Adam says his most successful experiment to date has been "a bacon fat-washed Compass Box Peat Monster [Scotch]... mixed with some Brown Sugar Syrup." He has also added ham fat to tequila but hasn't been able to nail down a recipe for duck fat in spirits. Yet.

Does this mean that the Cod-mopolitan and Bacon-tini are forthcoming? Perhaps even a little Happy Family Cocktail, based on the Chinese dish with seafood, pork, and chicken? I honestly hope not, but for those with adventurous palates these spirits and drinks are worth a try. For my part, I remain a vegetarian when it comes to liquids, although it's often hard to resist a little "pechuga" in my diet from time to time.

Related post:
Nashville Takes On Bacon Bourbon

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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