There’s a funny thing about booze that tends to be forgotten; when it comes to taking on other flavors, it’s like a sponge. The minute you introduce a new ingredient to a spirit, something truly magical happens. Before you know it, the bottle of vodka you filled with oranges suddenly tastes like, you guessed it, orange vodka. This magic trick is known as infusing, and as we’ve shown before on The Spirit, it’s simple enough to do in your own home, with not too much assembly required. Today, we dive back into another spirit infusion you can make at home: Bacon Bourbon. (At this point, Julie Andrews belting "these are a few of my favorite things" should be echoing in your head.)
Just like any spirit infusion, making bacon bourbon requires a base spirit, a flavor component, and that thing we all dread, patience. What I enjoy most about using bourbon as a base spirit is that there’s already a rich and luscious flavor profile, so the chances of having a full-on flavor explosion after combining it with smoky bacon fat are incredibly likely.
This brings us to the most important aspect of this particular infusion: quality ingredients. If you are aiming to use this bourbon in a cocktail (which you really, really should), you want to make sure that the ingredients you are using are top of the line. Solid bourbons like Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey 81, or Blanton’s are all very appropriate for this infusion, but feel free to use your favorite bourbon. As for the bacon, I recommend going for extra smoky; the fat and smoke from the bacon combined with the smooth, rich flavor of the bourbon will result in something that can only be described as meat-tastic. (Bacon-orrific and "holy meat hooch, this is incredible!" also suffice.)
Insider tip: When it comes to the point in the recipe when you are letting the concoction freeze, really let that bad boy freeze. The ideal goal here is to get that fat to solidify so it can be removed from the actual mixture, leaving behind the savory, smoky flavor. If you're getting antsy about taking it out before it's reached solid perfection, find an activity that will occupy your time for at least two or three hours. Your patience will be greatly rewarded in the form of bacon-y booze, satisfaction guaranteed.
Below is an easy-to-follow recipe for bacon-infused bourbon, along with a fantastic cocktail recipe to make with your new bourbon, both adapted from Don Lee, formerly of popular New York City speakeasy PDT. Cheers, and happy bacon-frying!
4 to 5 strips extra-smoky bacon (enough to render at least 1 ounce of fat)
1 bottle of bourbon (we recommend Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey 81, or Blanton’s)
Fry the bacon in a nonstick pan, reserving the rendered fat (eat the bacon, if you so desire!). After the fat has cooled, pour off at least 1 ounce from the pan. Pour the bourbon into a non-porous container (plastic usually works best). Strain the bacon fat into the bourbon, and infuse for at least 6 hours at room temperature. Put the infused bourbon into the freezer until all the fat has solidified. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fat from the top of the mixture, and strain the bourbon back into the bottle.
Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned (Created by Don Lee, formerly of PDT)
2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
¼ ounces grade B maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine the bourbon, maple syrup, and bitters. Stir until well-combined. Strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with the orange twist.
— Sara Kay, The Spir.it