A couple of weeks ago, Karl emailed me a link to a New York Magazine article containing a recipe for a Bacon-Infused Old-Fashioned. I had the feeling he had sent it to me for its shock value, or even in an attempt to induce his favorite response of mine (apparently, my face is capable of evincing both horror and scornful disdain simultaneously). Imagine his surprise when I emailed him back and told him that we would be conducting the experiment of infusing bourbon with bacon flavor as soon as possible!
I really, really like bourbon, and the idea of the smoky flavors of bacon mixing with the spicy aromatics of a good bourbon tickled my fancy. As the process described by New York Magazine did not seem very difficult, I thought, "Why not?"
Karl and I chose Elijah Craig bourbon for our experiment, even though Maker's Mark is my usual bourbon of choice. We felt that the powerful vanilla notes in Marker's Mark would not pair well with smoky bacon flavors. Elijah Craig lacks the vanilla and boasts a much spicier taste (think cinnamon and black pepper). We bought a hickory-smoked maple bacon for our infusion.
Essentially, the infusion process consists of cooking the bacon, and taking 1 oz. of the rendered fat (while it's hot) and pouring it into 750 mL of bourbon in a nonporous container. Then, while eating the bacon, you then let the mixture sit at room temperature for several hours, then put it in the freezer until the fats solidify on the top of the bourbon. You can then remove the fat with a slotted spoon, and voila! You have bacon-infused bourbon.
There was still a good amount of fat floating around in the bourbon (in particle form) after I had spooned out the large pieces, so I also poured the bourbon through cheesecloth to get the last bits out.
The resulting infused bourbon tasted a lot less like bacon than I thought it would. However, it took on some smoky back notes and a more viscous mouth-feel (thanks to the fat, I'm sure). Karl compared the taste and mouth-feel to a nice Scotch Whiskey. Overall, we were both very pleased.
We also took the suggestion of the New York Magazine article and made a variation of the Old Fashioned (which traditionally consists of bourbon, Angostura bitters, sugar, and a slice of orange). The variation substitutes the bacon-infused bourbon for regular and maple syrup for the sugar. What a delicious and elegant cocktail! Granted, we did not have the proper glass (you should use an old fashioned glass), but I thought the cocktail looked rather charming in a wine glass.
I will definitely be pulling this recipe out for parties, and maybe even for when I try a bourbon I'm not wild about. At the very least, it's an interesting way to get a few extra miles out of bacon fat!