We are not ashamed of our booze nerdiness over here at Food Republic — and we get pretty excited when our favorite bartenders play with spirits in new and unexpected ways. If it’s in liquid form, we’ll try pretty much anything, and we’ve tried a lot of super-trendy, fat-washed spirits over the last few years. While bacon does in fact make most things better, for the most part we’ve thought — on the sly — that adding bacon essence into a cocktail is really not worth the effort.
That is until we sat down at the bar at Empellon Cocina in New York’s East Village to chat with Mathew Resler, the beverage director. With Alex Stupak at the helm, the food coming out of the kitchen is as inventive and modern as it gets. (Related: Plate Deconstruction Of Empellon Cocina’s Roasted Carrots) It’s no wonder that the kitchen and the bar have such a playful relationship.
Which is how one night, Resler took some leftover pork fat from the kitchen and came up with the idea of fat-washing mezcal. They used the mezcal in a drink special one night, anticipating that it would be around for about a week or so. It was so good, they sold out that same night. It’s not an easy process to reproduce; it’s certainly a lot easier if your bar is adjacent to one of NYC’s highest-rated Mexican kitchens. But with a bit of effort, and if you follow the directions below, you can make pork fat–infused mezcal at home.
One of our favorite mezcals is Ilegal Joven, so we put in a call to see if they were interested in offering up a bottle to the pork fat gods (they were). If you’re the crafty D.I.Y. sort, this recipe would make a great gift to fans of the smoky Mexican spirit. Resler demoed their fat wash technique for us. The secret that sets it apart is the actual fat — it’s not just rendered out of a fatty cut of meat; these are the drippings from the restaurant’s adobo-marinated, slow-cooked pork ribs.
This is a bit of a chicken-egg situation: the guys in the kitchen at Empellon have so much delicious fat just laying around that they are able to essentially confit the ribs. To ensure that your pork fat is just as delicious as theirs, here’s their adobo marinade and what to do with it (you’ll also need a rack of ribs):
4 ancho chiles, 8 guajillo chiles and 4 chipotle chiles, plus 4 cloves roasted garlic, half a cup of cider vinegar, a quarter teaspoon of Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper, a whole clove, a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a half teaspoon of ground cumin.
Toast the dried chiles and soak in water for at least an hour until they are rehydrated. Drain and discard the soaking liquid. Combine the soaked chiles with the remaining ingredients and purée until smooth.
Cold smoke a rack of baby back pork ribs by taking a large hotel pan with woodchips on one side and charcoal on the other. Place another, smaller, pan with pork ribs, above the charcoal/woodchip pan. Ignite the charcoal, being careful to not ignite the woodchips. Cover both pans with foil and allow to smoke for 10-15 minutes, until desired level of smoke is achieved, then coat with adobo marinade and wrap in tin foil prior to placing ribs in a 300 degree oven for 7 hours. When the ribs have cooled, strain off the fat and use for the infusion.
If you’re having a hard time coming up to the same kind of volume of fat, make up the balance with pork lard from a butcher. To get the same depth of flavor without the ribs, heat up the fat in a pot with a few spoons of the marinade.
Once you’ve got your tub of seasoned pork fat in cooled liquid form, pour equal amounts of Ilegal Joven mezcal and fat into a sealable container. Seal the container and give it a really good shake, then put it in the freezer overnight. When the whole thing is separated and congealed, pour it through a fine mesh chinoise. If you don’t have a chinoise, try a fine mesh strainer, or if you don’t have one of those, try spooning off most of the fat. There will be some beads of orange fat left in the strained mezcal: run that through a few layers of cheesecloth (or coffee filters in a pinch) to get rid of the last of it.
The mezcal is now ready for drinking, straight-up or in a cocktail. We’ve got the recipe for the cocktail Empallon Cocina sold out in one night for you below. Resler said that he would love to cook with the mezcal-infused fat, and so would we. Waste not, want not! He then told us he’s been infusing tequila with Nutella and our brains almost exploded. More on that later.
- 2 medium sized habanero peppers
- 2 ounces Ilegal Joven mezcal
- 2 ounces pork rib fat infused Ilegal Joven mezcal
- 3/4 ounce Marie Brizard white chocolate liqueur
- 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur
- Slice habaneros and add 2 ounces Ilegal Joven mezcal.
- Allow to sit overnight or until desired level of heat is achieved.
- Combine mezcal and chocolate liqueur in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 45 seconds.
- Strain into chilled coupe.
- Carefully "sink" the coffee liqueur down the inside of the coupe over a spoon.
- Garnish with 5 drops habanero tincture.
More cocktail recipes with mezcal on Food Republic: