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News / Life / Food

Bacon old-fashion new drink sensation

By Jenn Ladd, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Published: July 5, 2023, 6:02am

PHILADELPHIA — If you’re under the impression that meat and booze don’t mix, bartenders have been proving otherwise for years. The trend’s been booming in Philly lately: There was the chicken martini at Martha, the Lambhattan at Andra Hem, a duck vieux carre at Fork, the Duck L’Orange at Townsend, a wagyu old-fashioned at ITV.

It’s all done via fat-washing: Combine a spirit and any liquid fat (it need not be meat; think olive oil, coconut oil, butter, etc.) in a jar or a bottle, shake it up, let it sit for a few hours, then freeze and strain. The resulting liquor is not only infused with the flavor and scent of the ingredient, it also has a smoother, fuller-bodied texture thanks to trace amounts of fat left behind.

The technique was first popularized in 2007 by the Benton’s Old-Fashioned at New York City speakeasy Please Don’t Tell, or PDT. Four Roses bourbon was washed with fat from brown-sugar-cured, hickory-smoked Benton’s bacon, combined with a little maple syrup, and served over a clear ice cube. The drink was an instant success that inspired various spinoffs — including the bacon old-fashioned at Four Humours Distilling (fourhumourswhiskey.com). Its recipe is similar to PDT’s, using Benton’s bacon fat, bourbon from Lehigh County’s Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, and housemade bitters. A scrumptious candied bacon garnish makes it worth the $20 price tag.

Founder Jonathan Anolik remembers the cocktail’s debut in 2020. “We were very, very nervous about putting it on the menu — a $20 cocktail in Olde Kensington. We had no idea how it would work,” he recalls. “We had one bottle (of bacon fat-washed bourbon) ready to rock and roll when we opened at 4 o’clock. By 5:30 we were sold out.”

The bar has kept a steady supply of bacon-infused bourbon at the ready ever since. You can swing by and order it Thursday through Sunday, or mix up a batch of your own. Anolik uses 1½ ounces of bacon fat to a bottle of bourbon and lets the mixture sit for four hours before freezing for two hours and straining. “All that smoky flavor stays behind,” Anolik says.

Bacon Old-Fashion

2 ounces bacon fat-washed bourbon

1/4 ounce dark maple syrup

2 dashes bitters

Orange peel and candied bacon, for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine the bourbon, maple syrup, and bitters with lots of ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass. Express the orange peel, then use for garnish along with the candied bacon.