If you've logged onto Netflix at all recently, or you're someone whose friends would qualify you as a foodie, then Netflix's Drink Masters is a familiar title from your screen. They make some seriously fancy drinks on that show - drinks that look sublime. Guess what? You can do it too, and we're here to help. Most of the techniques aren't difficult - they just require some time, patience, and a few instructions.
Whether you're already familiar with the show or not, grab your shakers and notebooks as you study up on how to be a master mixologist. Scared to fat wash a cocktail? Don't be. Are those clarified cocktails made only with magic? You can do this. Come, pull back the curtain, and step behind the bar. You've got this.
Whether you're frowning or raising your eyebrows in disbelief over the who, what, when, where, why, and how to fat or oil wash a cocktail, it's nothing more than a fancy name for a simple concept: infusion.
You select your fat or oil (think bacon or even coconut oil) then allow it to infuse with your alcohol like you would with fruit or herbs. After you freeze the mix so you can easily remove the fat and strain out the remaining impurities, you can have fat-infused or fat-washed liquor.
Fat washing adds flavor to the alcohol you use in your drink, and it also adds a delightful weight and texture that makes the cocktail uniquely delicious. For instance, think how good a buttery old-fashioned would be. With fat washing, it's well within reach.
Let's get down to it! Bear in mind, not all fats are created equal. You'll want to use a ratio of approximately 2-4 ounces of stronger-flavored fats (like bacon) for every 26 ounces of liquor, or approximately 4-8 ounces for every 26 ounces of liquor if the fat flavor isn't as prominent, such as butter or olive oil. Don't stress about measuring 26 ounces of liquor - that's your standard 750mL bottle.
- 3 ounces bacon fat or 6 ounces melted butter (or another fat)
- 1 (750 mL) bottle of bourbon (or another spirit)
- Airtight container to store infusion
How to Make Fat-Washed Liquor
- Melt or warm your fat, then carefully add it to the container you'll use to make the infusion.
- Carefully add your bourbon.
- Once the bottle is cool to the touch, seal it and swirl or shake gently to mix the ingredients.
- Stash the sealed container in the freezer until the fat forms a solid layer on top of the liquor.
- Strain or spoon off the layer of fat, then carefully strain the liquor through cheesecloth to catch any remaining fat in the bourbon.
- Store in a clean, sealed bottle or container in a refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Many of these techniques, like fat washing and clarifying, require filtration. Purchase a pour-over coffee maker with a permanent filter. It's the perfect mixologist's filtering tool, with or without added cheesecloth or coffee filters.
Putting Your Fat-Washed Liquor to Use
You can use your fat or oil-washed liquor in most cocktails, both classic and modern, but be smart about it. A bacon-washed rum may not shine in a Mai Tai as you hope, but a coconut-washed rum will be gorgeous in a daiquiri.
What Can I Fat-Wash With?
You can fat wash liquor with most oils and fats! Truffle oil, olive oil, bacon fat, duck fat, ham fat, blue cheese, butter, chocolate, foie gras fat, chorizo fat, peanut butter and other nut butters, it goes on and on. Most importantly, work with flavors of fats and oils you already enjoy.
Beet Juice Cocktails
Savory cocktails are having a moment! And that wave is definitely here to stay for a while. What's more savory and fitting than beet juice, a slightly sweet yet bold and earthy flavor that'll play well with bourbon, vodka, tequila, scotch, rum, and gin - all your big players. You can use beet shrub to give it an earthy, acidic touch to make a savory cocktail or balance out a sweeter cocktail such as a Tom Collins with just a half to full ounce of beet shrub. You can also turn to beet juice to whip up a summery rum cocktail or give a little extra something to your Moscow mule riff.
Shrubs are a simple combination of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. They became popular in Colonial America as a way to preserve fruit, and they've come back strong in the 21st century as a delicious cocktail and mocktail ingredient.
Be so, so, SO careful working with beets. It will stain anything it looks at, so take care when, where, and what you're wearing when you embark on your beet journey. What we're saying is, don't drop the beet.
- 1½-2 cups fresh beets, peeled and cubed
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- Glass jar or bowl
How to Make Beet Shrub
- In your jar or bowl, add the prepared beets and sugar. Give it a stir.
- Cover and put it in your refrigerator for at least 24 hours, but no more than three days.
- Give the beets and sugar a mix each day.
- After the final day, uncover and carefully stir in the vinegar.
- Allow the mix to sit at room temperature for several hours, well out of the way where it can be bumped. Then, remove the cubes of beets and carefully filter the remaining (you can use cheesecloth) to remove any smaller pieces.
- Store in a bottle and refrigerate for up to six months.
Oleo saccharum translates to "oil sugar." And that simple name also helps when you try to remember the ingredients you'll need to make some. This recipe is a great way to use up citrus peels or maximize every bit of the citrus fruit without any parts going to waste.
Oleo saccharum may be a mouthful to say, but it simply means oil sugar, and it's a great way to add a punch of flavor to all sorts of cocktails.
Oleo saccharum, like shrubs, can find its way into most any style of cocktail. Replace a bit of the syrup in a simple sour or add a little something extra to your gin and tonic or vodka soda. And, you know where else you can try them? Clarified milk punches (don't worry - we'll explain those in a bit).
- Peels from 2-3 small citrus fruit (such as lemons or limes) or 1-2 large citrus fruit (such as grapefruits or navel oranges)
- ¼-½ cup white sugar
- Bowl or container
How to Make Oleo Saccharum
- In a small bowl, add the citrus peels and sugar.
- Stir to the mix thoroughly.
- Muddle the citrus peels and sugar until the peels begin to express oils. Hint: it'll be fragrant!
- Refrigerate the mixture for approximately three hours, or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the peels and strain the sugar oil mix into a resealable container, capturing as much oil as you can.
- Refrigerate the oleo saccharum in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
When using citrus peels, try to avoid the white underneath part (called the pith), as it can make your oleo saccharum bitter.
Dip Your Toes Into More Common Drink Masters Techniques
You might be more familiar with these techniques featured on Drink Masters, so now is your chance to refine and polish those skills.
Clarified Cocktails and Milk-Washing
Take a trip to the days of Benjamin Franklin (yes, really!) to create a clarified cocktail that essentially goes a step further than fat washing, but this time you intentionally curdle dairy with acid. Sit tight. These cocktails will blow you away. They are silky, smooth, sweet, and a little bit dangerous. Fair warning: they don't really taste like they have much alcohol, but they're actually loaded with it. There's a reason so many of the contestants on Drink Masters constructed clarified cocktails.
Clarified cocktails aren't difficult per se, but they definitely take some patience and attention to detail.
- Trust the process, and don't rush it! It can take hours to filter, depending on the volume. Start with cheesecloth, filtering several times, before moving onto a finer filter such as coffee filters. Patience, young mixologist.
- You want curdling! Don't be afraid of the curdling. Cheer it on, as more curdling means more fat-washing with the milk.
- Take it easy when you finally get to enjoy it. These cocktails are some of the booziest and most dangerous because they don't taste like alcohol! Sip slowly and respect the clarified milk punch.
Nothing gives a cocktail a little mystery and sex appeal quite like smoke. There are a few ways to achieve those sultry, smoky cocktail flavors. You can use a smoking gun and smoke the inside of the glass, specific ingredients, or the cocktail just before serving. With a cloche or dome, you can allow the smoke to mingle with the glass and the ingredients. Smoke tops achieve the same effect, but take up quite a bit less space in your cupboards.
Smoking just the glass will give a subtler touch, but use a glass that has more surface area because you don't want to go through all the work for nothing. If you opt to smoke a decanter before sealing the ingredients, it's a great way to smoke several servings of a cocktail at once.
For the adventurous, you can char a cocktail smoking board. And above all, don't forget your garnish. Which you can also, of course, char or smoke.
Whether you call them nonalcoholic drinks, virgin drinks, or mocktails, the zero-proof cocktail is here to stay. You can whip up frozen mocktails, infuse your own water or sparkling water to create new flavors, bust out your new bottle of zero proof spirits to infuse or not, muddle your way to fresh mojitos, or sit back and relax with nonalcoholic wine and some sangria. However you go about it, the world of mocktails is only growing with each last call.
Techniques to Give Your Cocktails the Drink Masters' Edge
Make your cocktails stand out from the crowd with these ideas straight from the screen to your glass.
- Make cocktails a sensory experience. Don't forget about the other senses when you're whipping up a drink. The eyes drink first, so it should capture attention. Don't forget aromatics either, which you can achieve with garnishes, bitters, smoke, atomizers, or other pungent ingredients.
- Make cocktails that transform as you drink them. Freeze nonalcoholic ingredients into ice cubes to make a new drink as your ice melts. An easy place to start is apple cider ice cubes in a traditional Old-Fashioned.
- Use remarkable garnishes. Don't limit yourself to a boring garnish. Make it fun! Dream big! Think of all those extraordinary Bloody Mary garnishes, use rosemary salt instead of plain salt with your cranberry margarita, or add some sparkle to your drink to give it some pizzazz.
- Pivot with tools. You don't need exact glasses, tools, or ingredients to make all cocktails. You can use a rocks glass instead of a highball glass in a pinch or a wine glass instead of a coupe. If you don't have a cocktail muddler, go ahead and use the bottom of a clean wooden spoon. Don't let anything limit your cocktail stardom dreams.
- Try cocktail flights. Tell a story with your flight. Make up to four miniature cocktails at random using smaller portions, or split up a single-serving drink over a few shared flights. Whatever your approach, add more flavors to your night without drinking more by utilizing cocktail flights.
Become a Master Mixologist
Turn yourself into the master mixologist of your home with these tips and perhaps a few episodes of Netflix's Drinks Masters. In no time, you'll be drafting your own recipes that'll wow anyone, and even yourself.