After I posted the Maple Bacon Old Fashioned I got a ton of people emailing me asking how to make bacon whiskey. Luckily infusing everyone’s favorite pig fat into your favorite tipple is easy. But first lets take a quick look at infusions.
What is a boozy infusion?
Ever had gin and wonder how they pack a scrumptious pine forrest into a bottle? Or ponder the essence of coffee liqueur, flavored vodkas, or Drambuie? Whether you’ve wondered or not these spirits and liqueurs owe their very existence to infusion.
Making a infusion with alcohol is a lot like making a cup of tea except we’re using ethanol instead of water. Every infusion starts with an alcohol base – typically something neutral like vodka though other spirits can be used too. The trick is that the alcohol has to be strong – the stronger the better – and it’s common to use overproof spirits for a superior process.
Herbs, spices, flowers, and roots are added to the spirit and allowed to sit. The length of time that the infusion rests is determined by the type plant matter – citrus and herbs produce bitter off flavors if left too long – and the desired strength of the finished product. When I made my dandelion tequila I left the flowers in for 2 days but only infused my jalapeño peppers for 2 hours when making my spicy vodka for my bloody mary.
How does infusion work
Alcohol is a solvent and that means that it breaks down fats and oils that come into contact with a high concentration. When plant matter is added to an alcohol base the essential oils from the plant leave the leaves, stems, and petals and are dissolved into the alcohol and remain behind when the matter is strained out. That’s the basics.
Fats work the same way. The trick with fats is pairing them up with a spirit in a way that works well. I mean sure you could raid week old oil from the fryer at your local Micky D’s for an infusion but who would want to.
A match made in heaven
Bacon on the other hand is a perfect candidate for a whiskey infusion as there’s so many complimenting flavors between the whiskey and the pork fat. The salty, smokey bacon pairs flawlessly with the soft, round flavors of a good bourbon.
And speaking of good bourbon don’t go too good – if you know what I mean. This is not an occasion to pull a 21 year old bottle of Pappy off the shelf to infuse. No. Instead find something that works well but that won’t kill your budget. Jim Meehan of PDT New York (and now —— Portland) uses Rittenhouse rye in his fat washed whiskey which only runs $15 or so a bottle. Personally I tend to use actual bourbon over rye as I find the flavors meld better but still don’t go much over $20 a bottle.
Any way. Here’s the process
How to make bacon bourbon
Find yourself some nice double smoked bacon. This is important as settling for whatever version of Oscar-Meyer will yield less than stellar results (trust me I tried). Double smoked. Also fatty. Bacon tends to be a fattier cut of pork anyway but take a look at the packages and pick the one with the most fat. In the off chance that you’re feeling health conscious don’t worry you’re not going to eat it…. who am I kidding, yet you will.
Take the bacon out and toss it into a frying pan and cook it up -nothing special here. I usually use a half pound of bacon per 750ml of booze but that’s a totally arbitrary measure. Do what best suits your palate.
Once the bacon’s cooked pull it off and strain the fat into a large glass jar. Add the booze. Put the entire mixture in the fridge for up to 4 hours and wait. I tried letting is sit overnight once and it affected the mouthfeel – kind of greasy and not very good. Four hours is about right.
Take the mixture out of the fridge and fine strain it through a sieve. If you’re totally neurotic about appearance – as I am – then give it a second pass through a coffee filter.
I’ve been told that it’ll keep for up to a month on the self and three months in the fridge… but honestly I’ve never had any bacon bourbon stick around long enough to go bad. And I suspect you won’t either.