Fat Washing. A Step by Step Guide on How to Fat Wash.

Written by Christopher Menning | December 2, 2019

oil used for fat washing

What is Fat Washing?

Fat washing is a technique used by bartenders to infuse by adding small amounts of oil, or fat, into alcohol. The liquid is then frozen and the fat is separated due to the different freezing points. 

It is an old perfumers technique called enfleurage and was first brought to the wider public’s attention by a bartender called Don Lee. 

He was working at Please Don’t Tell in New York at the time and spent a lot of time talking to chefs trying to gain inspiration for where to go next with his drinks.

 It was one of these chefs, who had heard of a technique that perfumers use to extract difficult flavours, that inspired him to fat wash bourbon with bacon. 

With fat washing, flavour options are very much verging on limitless for bartenders.

a jar with fat wash alcohol
photo credit: the flavour bender

Over the past decade, this process has gone from relative obscurity to a regular practice in most cocktail bars. Although it can sound disgusting and can be tricky to make, the results are fantastic and tasty. 

This rather odd technique comes from an old process named enfleurage which perfumers have used since the 19th century to extract essential oils. Water is known in the world of science as a universal solvent. 

This basically means it dissolves more substances than any other liquid. 

Due to the positive charge of hydrogen molecules on one side, and negative charge of oxygen molecules on the other, the flavour and aroma compounds become attracted to water and bond readily. 

Oil, however, has a neutral charge. It doesn’t attract charged particles so won’t dissolve as wide a range of solutes as water. But it more readily bonds with other neutral molecules meaning it will take on more flavour of certain solutes. 

Oil also already has its own flavour, so the flavour of the solute has to pair with the flavour of the oil. Fat washing is entirely possible due to alcohol’s capability to dissolve oil-based molecules.

When using oil, you must be particularly careful of potential bacterial growth — poorly stored or incorrectly made infusions can cause Botulism, which can have potentially fatal side effects.

History of Fat Washing

Like we mentioned previously, the process of using fat to extract flavour dates back to perfumers during the 19th century however it is Don Lee of New York’s Please Don’t Tell (PDT) we have to thank for bringing it to the mainstage of the bar world. 

Don Lee created the Benton’s Old-Fashioned, a bacon-infused bourbon cocktail.

Don credits his inspiration for fat washing to Eben Freeman, another New York bartender of the popular WD-50 bar. Eben is known for his brown butter washed rum which he learned from the pastry chef at the time, Chef Sam Mason.

Types of Fat for Fat Washing

All oils are soluble in alcohol. 

There is very little difference in terms of how well an oil/fat combines with your spirit. 

Different products though will give different flavours and the oil you choose must pair with the cocktail concept you are trying to create as much as the base alcohol. 

If you go along the lines of natural food pairings or when certain drinks/foods are traditionally eaten, you won’t stray too far wrong. 

Think extra virgin olive oil for a tomato-based or green herb inspired drink. 

Although you may find some strange matches, you will see later that the use of coconut oil is more suited to Calvados! As we have used in our coconut sidecar.

Choosing an oil with a higher melting point will aid in removing the oil once it is frozen. Another thing to think about is the taste factor. 

Many oils already have a distinct flavour, but you can also opt for others that are neutral, giving you the option to add additional flavours. Below are some examples of their melting points.

Oil Typemelting point
Olive Oil21°F (-6°C)
Sesame Oil21°F (-6°C)
Peanut Oil37°F (3°C)
Coconut Oil77°F (25°C)
Palm Oil95°F (35°C)
Cocoa Butter93 to 100°F (34 to 38°C)
Butter90 to 95°F (32 to 35°C)

Melting points of various oils

How to Fat Wash

Fat washing is certainly a lengthy process but the results are worth it. Make sure your fat/ oil is in liquid form before use. 

For each recipe, there might be a bit of experimentation to get it to the taste you want but we recommend these ratios which are from Dave Arnolds Liquid Intelligence book.

120g/4 oz per 750ml for strong tasting fats luck bacon and duck fat and 240g/8 oz for less strong fats like butter and vegetable oils.

The following are generic instructions for fat washing alcohol which can be adapted to any spirit and fat combination. The ratios can be scaled down if you plan to use smaller quantities.

Fat Wash. Rocket, Rapeseed Oil, Mezcal.

Fat washing is a technique used by bartenders to infuse by adding small amounts of oil, or fat, into an alcohol. The liquid is then frozen and the fat is separated due to the different freezing points.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Freezing: 8 hours
Total Time: 13 hours 5 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Infusion
Keyword: Fat Wash
Servings: 700 ml
Calories: 160kcal
Author: Christopher Menning
Cost: £35

Equipment

  • pan (for melting non-liquid fat)
  • Nonreactive container
  • fine strainer
  • cheesecloth or coffee filter
  • Funnel
  • bottle for storage

Ingredients

  • 50 g Rocket
  • 700 ml Mezcal Del Maguey
  • 400 ml Rapeseed Oil

Instructions

  • In a non-reactive container, add the oil, alcohol, and washed rocket leaves.
  • Leave to sit in a cool, dark place for 5 hours. Shake it every hour or so to agitate it.
  • Place the container in the freezer and leave it overnight, or up to 8 hours.
  • Take the container freezer and carefully strain out the alcohol using a cloth and funnel into your chosen bottle.

Nutrition

Calories: 160kcal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How to Fat Wash Alcohol

In order to fat wash your chosen alcohol, you need to first transform your chosen fat or oil into a liquid form and combine it with the alcohol. 

Equipment 

  • pan for melting non-liquid fat
  • Nonreactive container
  • fine strainer
  • cheesecloth or coffee filter
  • funnel
  • bottle for storage

How To Fat Wash With Olive Oil

Olive oil is produced by pressing whole olives, a tree crop found in the Mediterranean Basin.

It is one of the core food plants found in Mediterranean cuisine and interestingly Spain is the largest producer by volume. 

Olive oil composition can vary depending on altitude, time of harvest and other factors and Extra Virgin Olive is considered to have more favourable flavour characteristics.

One of the common olive oil fat wash is to use vodka to max out your dirty martini recipe! The dirty martini calls for olive brine but why not add an extra depth and silky texture of the green little fruit. 

We also use olive oil with egg white in one of our shrub cocktails to add a silky texture and match our strawberry and basil flavours.

Fat Washing with Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has a distinct nutty aroma and taste and can be found in different colours. The dark brown variety found in East Asia is from roasting the sesame seeds before pressing.

Lighter colours are not roasted beforehand and come from the raw seed so the flavour is different.Experiment to find which one matches your needs. 

We recommend pairing it with a grain whiskey like Nikka from the barrel or Suntory Hakushu whiskey.

How To Fat Wash With Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a long-standing history in the Asian culinary scene though due to its high levels of saturated fat it gets a bad reputation. 

Harvested from the coconut palm, you will usually find it in solid form which means it has a high melting point temperature. 

Because of its high saturated fat content, it is resistant to rancidification usually caused by fast oxidisation and can last up to 6 months at controlled temperatures. 

We like to use this with a young Calvados because the crips apple notes pair so wonderfully with the nutty and creamy coconut notes. Then we whip it all up in a sidecar recipe.

peanut butter on spoon ready for fat washing

How to Fat Wash with Peanut Butter

The process of using peanut butter for a fat wash is more associated with enfleurage than its vegetable and animal oil counterparts. 

Using a large baking pan, spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the pan and pour your chosen alcohol on top. We recommend a bourbon here like, Buffalo Trace.

Let it sit at room temperature overnight and then strain off through a coffee filter in the morning. 

Nico De Soto, the owner of renowned bars Mace, Danico, and Kaido uses fat washing often and has been known to use peanut butter in his cocktails! You can listen about his infusion methods on our podcast ‘On the Back Bar’.

How to Fat Wash with Butter

Butter is a water-oil emulsion using milk proteins as the emulsifier. 

The dairy product is most frequently made from cows milk and the consistency is around 80% butterfat. 

Butter Rum is by far one of the tastiest options here! When making your butter rum, remember that once your butter is melted it will contain milk solids as well as fat. 

The fat will give you the buttery flavour and the milk solids will give you creaminess. what does this mean for you fat wash? 

Well, using the fat wash method above will result in a cloudy yet creamy spirit. 

Another option is to heat the butter on a stove to the point where all liquid has evaporated then add to the rum. This will give you a clearer spirit but less of the creamy taste.

How to Fat Wash with Bacon

Bacon and Bourbon is that dream-worthy combination that started the trend. The fat-soluble compounds alter not only the flavour of the spirit but also the mouthfeel. When you next cook some bacon, keep a few OZ of the bacon fat and try this super simple technique yourself. You’re just a few steps away from a delicious bottle of fat-washed goodness.

how to fat wash bacon infographic

How to Fat Wash with Duck Fat

Duck fat has a great flavour and we recommend using it with its classic flavour counterpart, orange. Pick a bottle of Cointreau or Mandarine Napoleon to wash.

 When choosing your duck fat opt for pure rendered and heat it to liquid form before adding to your spirit. 

About 4 0z will be enough and you can leave it for around 6 hours to let it develop. 

After this, place in a freezer overnight and strain in the morning!

How to Store Your Fat Wash

Using fats, especially from an animal, there runs the risk of bacterial build-up. 

We suggest when using animal fat to make sure it has been cooked properly and you use minimal amounts. Strain off as much of the remnant as you can which can usually mean just 2 – 3 strains through cheesecloth or coffee filter. 

Store you fast washes in the fridge and we suggest any fat washed alcohol with animal fat should be used in a couple of days and vegetable fat washed alcohol can be kept for up to 2 weeks. 

It might not seem like a lot of time but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

We use this pack of 1 liter Kilner bottles for all our infusion making as they are sturdy and perfectly stackable in the fridge.

Fat Wash Recipes

In our Cocktail Recipes at Home E-book, we listed a number of homemade syrups, shrubs, and infusions. Below is one of our favourite Shrub’s from the book, which is delicious and super easy to make!
Conclusion

We suggest using your fat wash in a spirit-forward cocktail. Drinks like the old fashioned, Manhattan or negroni will let your wash shine. 

The flavour tends to be subtle so you don’t want to mask it with acidity. Experiment though and you can find some pretty bizarre yet tasty concoctions!

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