Photos by Paul Chang
Whether you are a seasoned bartender or a curious enthusiast, join us as we raise our spirits to the creative union of ingredients and technique and delve into what makes a great drink unforgettable.
When it comes to fat-washing cocktails, owner, and bar director at NYC’s NR, Shigefumi (Shige) Kabashima, believes the old-school method is still around simply because it’s logical. As for its recent rise in popularity, he credits social media for its countless tips and tutorials that are easy to access.
For those who aren’t familiar with the technique, it involves melting a fat, such as bacon grease or butter, mixing it with the spirit, and then freezing the mixture. Afterwards, the solid fat is removed, resulting in a spirit with a subtle, yet distinct flavor. For bartenders who are running low on creative fuel, look no further than this process, as it offers a different and exciting way to experience the flavors of spirits.
Chilled got the chance to catch up with Shige to get a deeper understanding of how he incorporates fat-washing, and what tips he has to offer for those interested in using it themselves.
In 2000, I started in the industry as a bartender at Kirin’s Hartland Bar in Tokyo. By 2005, I decided to move to NYC and join the bartending team at the acclaimed speakeasy-style Japanese cocktail bar, Angel’s Share. As my bartending skills developed, I went on to manage the bar and spent time holding Japanese bartender-style seminars and courses, as well as consulting for hotels, restaurants, and bars across major cities within the United States and abroad. In 2016, I opened ROKC (Ramen Oysters Kitchen Cocktails) in Hamilton Heights, and following its success, I opened NR (’N ROLL) on the Upper East Side in Fall of 2019.
Our innovative and often experimental cocktail menu features a collection of avant-garde libations served in one-of-a-kind vintage vessels collected around the world. Many of the cocktails incorporate house-made syrups, jams, infused liquors, and more.
NR’s menu aims to put a contemporary twist on restaurants found in traditional Japanese port towns during the Meiji Period. One of our many fat-washed cocktails is an Espresso Martini fat washed with coconut oil, called the Ethiopian Coffee. It’s made with Ethiopian coffee rum, creme de banana, allspice dram, pineapple, orange, lime, and nutmeg.
We also have an Indian-inspired lassi fat washed with yogurt called the Cardamon + Golden Kiwi *Lassi?. It features tequila, cardamon, saffron, golden kiwi, mango, and honey. The fat wash helps take the edge off the citrus and adds richness.
For a fat-washed cocktail, I think spirits that can be drank at room temperature like whiskey, rum, brandy, and Anejo tequila, as well as some liqueurs, work best. For example, if you fat wash amaro or Campari, the redness will be removed and the color becomes transparent. The sweetness is also slightly suppressed and rich, so if you make Negroni with it, you will end up with a unique taste.
Photo by Paul Chang
1 ¼ oz. cardamon-infused tequila
¼ oz. Strega Saffron
1 ¼ oz. Golden Kiwi
½ oz. lemon juice
¾ oz. honey
1 oz. mango yogurt (yogurt wash)
Mix all ingredients with mango yogurt.
Refrigerate for 24 hours and strain with a paper filter.
Garnish with a peacock feather.