Drinks With a Little Meat on Their Bones

In Sunday's New York Times, Jonathan Miles fleshes out the story of a cocktail being served at Primehouse New York. Cocktail designer Eben Klemm took the restaurant's steakhouse concept seriously while creating the recipe for the Dirty Bull, a carnivorous take on the dirty martini that is made with vodka, olive brine, and a dollop of veal stock, then garnished with a piece of beef jerky.

It would be easy to dismiss the drink as a gimmick, except December's issue of Food & Wine features an article on Eben Freeman, currently tending bar at Tailor in Manhattan, who is also blurring the boundaries between the charcuterie plate and the cocktail shaker. While demonstrating the process of "fat washing"--in which a liquid fat such as melted butter is mixed with an alcohol such as rum, then chilled until the fat congeals and can be removed, leaving its flavor but not its greasiness behind--Freeman says that any fat can be infused into spirits, and goes on to prepare a bacon-infused bourbon.

Meaty drinks have been gimmicks for so long that it's hard to take the concept seriously (witness the bacon martini at Las Vegas' Double Down Saloon, made with vodka stored in a bottle with slices of bacon), but the level of attention being given to the idea by top-flight mixologists such as Klemm and Freeman suggests this unusual approach may well have legs.

Should this be the case, a raft of new drinks may join the very sparse class of "savory cocktails." Until recently, drinks such as the Bloody Mary and the Worcestershire sauce-flavored Bullshot were among the very few inhabitants of this category. Now, thanks to the efforts of mixologists such as Freeman (who mixes red bell pepper juice in his Paprika Punch) and the Portland, OR-based Ryan Magarian (who's known for infusing vodka with horseradish and muddling bell peppers into drinks), the idea of expanding the bar's flavor repertoire beyond the typical sweet / sour / bitter approach is getting some serious attention. Should bar patrons respond with approval, umami may become a factor to consider when planning a restaurant's bar menu.

Still, many people would prefer to keep the meat and vegetables on the plate and out of the glass. What's your take? Could you enjoy a meaty martini, or are you gagging at the very thought of it?

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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