Bars in the city are experimenting with a range of bacon-infused cocktails that showcase the smoky umami flavours of the cured meat
Moving on from gimmicky bar props and molecular mixology, bars in the city seem to have found another source of inspiration – bacon. While bacon-infused spirits and cocktails aren’t new, it’s still an emerging trend in Bengaluru with several bars offering variants of it over the last six months. Internationally, a bacon-infused Bourbon cocktail called Benton’s Old Fashioned concocted by New York City bar, Please Don’t Tell in 2007, set off the trend across the US. Today, of course, this trend has evolved considerably in the West with a range of unlikely flavours finding their way into spirits – peanut butter, chocolate milk, brown butter, duck fat, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, etc. Typically, mixologists use a technique called fat washing to infuse such flavours into alcohol. In Bengaluru, bartenders are experimenting with fat washing as well as simpler techniques to distil the smoky umami flavours of bacon in a cocktail.
Bourbon & bacon – the perfect match
Since the smoky flavour of bourbon marries well with bacon, most bars we spoke to such as Toast & Tonic, High Ultra Lounge, Farzi Café, Whiskey Bar at Radisson Blu and Bar Uno at JW Marriott serve whiskey infused cocktails. Perhaps, one of the earliest examples of a bacon-infused cocktail appearing in Bengaluru’s bar scene was Toast & Tonic’s Bacon Old Fashioned comprising bacon-infused bourbon, bitters, orange, sugar and ice. It has been on the menu since the eatery first opened its doors two years ago, and, according to Manu Chandra, executive chef and partner at T&T, it has been one of their bestsellers outside their signature gin and tonic cocktails. “We follow a process called cold washing where you render the fat very slowly from a slab of bacon or pieces of bacon so that the fat melts. At the same time, you don’t want the bacon to caramelise or change colour. You separate the fat to get something that resembles white butter and we put that into the bourbon and let it infuse overnight in the refrigerator,” Chandra explains. The solidified fat is then strained out and the resulting alcohol is used in the cocktail. “Since alcohol is highly volatile it picks up flavours very quickly. In this case, you are left with bourbon that’s full of smoky bacon-y flavours.”
Dinesh Varma, F&B director at Vivanta by Taj – Yeshwantpur, tells us that he has been following a similar technique to make a bacon-infused Old Fashioned as well as a martini made with bacon-infused gin. While these drinks are not on their regular menu, Sharma claims to have sold 20-odd bacon-infused cocktails on special requests after he made the first one about eight months ago. “It was for a British guest at our hotel who asked for a bacon-infused cocktail. Since then we have been spreading the word among all our regulars. We have even made bacon-infused kamikaze shots a few times but the Old Fashioned is the most popular,” Sharma says.
Infusion and experimentation
However, not everyone favours the fat washing technique. Thejeswara Anand, senior bar executive at Farzi Café, has been developing a savoury cocktail menu which is set to launch next month. One of the specials on this menu is a Bacon Sour, a twist on the classic Whiskey Sour. Not a fan of the fat washing technique, Anand has found another way of introducing the bacon flavour in his cocktail. “I find that using fat can leave an overwhelming and lingering bacon flavour on the palate. Instead, I heat the bacon to separate the fat from it, then I let it dry out after which I leave the strip of bacon and some basil in the whiskey overnight. This way, one gets the basil flavour first followed by an aftertaste of bacon,” Anand explains.
On the other hand, Abhishek Shevade, bar chef at JW Marriott, prefers to swirl a strip of freshly grilled bacon (straight out of a salamander) into a glass of barrel-aged Old Fashioned. This whole concoction is then smoked with apple wood chips. “The smoked bacon releases some oils into the cocktail; this coupled with the apple flavour from wood chips makes for a rich, flavourful drink,” Shevade says. A similar technique is followed by Chili’s American Bar & Grill, which introduced a new margarita cocktail menu in December, including a Bacon BBQ Margarita. Here a flame-roasted strip of streaky bacon is plunged into the cocktail mix containing tequila, BBQ sauce and sweet and sour mix. “This savoury cocktail has smoky undertones from the bacon as well as the BBQ sauce,” Ashish Saxena, CEO of Chili’s, says.
Chorizo cocktail, anyone?
The only departure from the use of bacon seems to be Lady Baga’s Goan chorizo-infused cocktail Bloody Marianna. A twist on the classic Bloody Mary, this cocktail was devised when the first outlet of Lady Baga opened in Delhi last year. Deepti K Das, a partner at the Bengaluru outpost, says, “The concept of a chorizo works perfectly with the Goan beach shack positioning. With a nice chorizo flavour mixed with tomato and some cumin dust, it is slightly heavy but popular with those who love Bloody Mary.” To infuse the chorizo flavour, the skin of the chorizo sausages are slit after which it’s heated in the microwave and placed in a decanter with vodka for some time. This infused vodka is then mixed with tomato juice, chilli paste and seasoned with vinegar, pepper, cumin, lemon and rock salt.
Whether you prefer your bacon crispy with a side of eggs or infused in a glass of Old Fashioned, fans of the salty, smoky meat will tell you that you can never go wrong with bacon. After all, we have had bacon ice-cream, bacon jam, candied bacon so this is probably a cocktail trend worth welcoming.