Salt, fat add flavor to cocktails

The Man Harrison cocktailYou have probably heard the expression "fat equals flavor." This admonition holds true not only in the kitchen, but in the bar as well. The Washington Post reports on the technique known as "fat washing" that is used to add flavor to drinks.

Fat washing is a method of infusing almost any type of flavorful fat, from coconut oil to bacon fat, into spirits. The booze is then frozen and the hardened fat strained out. This technique allows the flavors to come through without any greasy residue. "The last thing you want in the drink is the fat itself. You don't want that fatty mouth feel when you're drinking a cocktail," says Carlo Bruno, general manager at Bar Charley. "It's all the other things you want from the fat. That's why people do fat washes with bacon fat. It's not the fat itself; it's the salt and the smoke."

Which brings us to salt, which has uses in a cocktail beyond the salty rim on your margarita. It's no secret that salt can enhance the flavor of almost any food, and used judiciously, it will do the same to your cocktail. The mechanism by which salt enhances flavor is "through a series of complex chemical processes involving things like G protein-coupled receptors and cations." In layman's terms, salt blocks bitterness which allows more subtle flavors to be noticed.

"Salt is the secret ingredient in almost all my cocktails," writes cocktail guru Dave Arnold in his book, Liquid Intelligence. "Any cocktail that includes fruit, chocolate or coffee benefits from a pinch of salt."

If you remain skeptical, Arnold recommends making your favorite drink twice, once as normal and once with a dash of salt. Compare the two, and "you will never forget the salt again," he says. Don't add too much, though - the drink shouldn't taste salty. Once you see how salt can enhance your drink you may want to experiment with different types of salt, including smoked and infused salts.

Photo of The man Harrison from by Michael Ruhlman

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