AUDIE CORNISH, Host:
At restaurants across the country, the dinner menu has been bleeding not so subtly onto the cocktail list: brown butter rum, chorizo margaritas, foie gras brandy and, of course, bacon in just about every combination you can think of: bacon vodka, bacon bourbon, and here in Washington, D.C., bacon scotch.
We wanted to learn more about this carnivorous trend in mixology. So we headed over to Proof, a restaurant just a few blocks from our studios. There, we met up with bar manager Adam Bernbach, and he gave us a little lesson in the art of fat washing.
ADAM BERNBACH: Meat gives a cocktail a certain unique flavor that nothing else can give across. There is a comedy to it, I admit, but it's not so unnatural, in a way. If you can infuse the rind of an orange, why not bacon?
CORNISH: I think we definitely have to taste. All right. Bacon-infused scotch.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
CORNISH: Okay, you know what's really strange about that? You smell bacon going in, and then bacon kind of when you leave, it remains with you.
CORNISH: How did you do this?
BERNBACH: I really took the fat that was strained off of cooking bacon.
CORNISH: Which is the fat that we all get when we cook bacon at home. And usually, we put it in a little jar and put it, like, under the sink.
CORNISH: You're saying you do something else with that little jar from under the sink.
BERNBACH: What you can do is pour it into an alcohol, in this case, a very, very peaty scotch, a delicious peaty scotch, put it into a freezer, and it'll separate. The fat will separate.
It will look almost like the crema on espresso. You skim that off, and what you have is the flavor tones of bacon but none of the oil.
CORNISH: Bernbach says the process can take hours or days, depending on the richness of the fat. But that's only the first step towards the real fun, making up new concoctions.
Lesson number two: the Jamesey's Breakfast Cocktail. Bernbach pulls out a shaker and pours a little bit of brown liquid from a plastic container - that's the bacon scotch - then he measures out the secret ingredient.
BERNBACH: I think we can all agree that a little bit of sweetness goes very well with bacon. I personally like a little bit of maple syrup on mine. But in this case, I'm going to go a little bit more barbecue-ey and go with molasses.
CORNISH: He portions out some lemon juice and then Gran Marnier. The result is a murky mix the color of caramel with a bright spiral of an orange rind perched on the edge of a martini glass.
BERNBACH: I think the key is integration. And this is for cocktails in general. If everything can be integrated in a well-balanced and interesting manner, then you got yourself a good cocktail.
CORNISH: Oh, my goodness. This is amazing. It's so strange. It really smells like a breakfast plate. Like, it smells like the bacon, and there's some fresh fruit on the side of the plate, and I don't know, waffles. I wish you had made one for yourself and then we could have a little toast.
BERNBACH: Oh, I still got the whole night ahead of me.
CORNISH: Oh, right. Right.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
CORNISH: Adam Bernbach is the bar manager at Proof restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Adam, thanks for showing me how it's done.
BERNBACH: Thank you very, very much for coming by and visiting.
CORNISH: And if you'd like to get Adam Bernbach's drink recipes like the Jamesey's Breakfast Cocktail or his Minito with Anchovy Tequila, head over to our website at npr.org.
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