Here’s something you might not have guessed about the BLT Cocktail at Portland’s Gilt Club: the “B” doesn’t stand for “bacon.” It stands for “Basil, Lemon, and Tomato,” but it was more or less designed around bacon salt.
About four years ago we started seriously pursuing the idea of working with bacon in a cocktail. Being Gilt Club, our first inclination was to simply infuse a vodka. The result? Kind of gross, actually. So then we figured a bourbon was the way to go. (That was equally gross, but for some reason still sounds good to me.) Once we realized the usual route wasn’t going to work, we started thinking of alternate ways to incorporate it.
The bacon salt idea came around the same time we were doing an Heirloom Tomato Martini that featured lemon and basil oil with a smoked salt rim. We made the bacon salt and realized that we could use the ingredients from the tomato martini to showcase it.
We dropped the basil oil, stuck with the lemon, added a bit of acid and bruised the basil in the shaker with the cocktail. You could argue there are three different garnishes going on in this one drink. The bacon salt rim is the most obvious and steals the show. But the lemon-infused olive oil is used in such a small amount and floated on the surface, so for all intents and purposes it is also a garnish. Lastly, there is the basil which we “slap” to release the oils (otherwise it will overpower the other flavors).
The basil leaf contributes visual and olfactory intrigue, the bacon salt adds flavor and contrast, and the lemon oil adds not only to the savory flavor profile but also gives the cocktail a really unique viscous texture.