When my latest, The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, came out last week, I got an enthusiastic tweet from a London chef, Michael Harrison, about a schmaltz-infused cocktail. I immediately asked for a guest post. I learned not only a daring new cocktail—not for the faint of heart—but I also learned about “fat-washing” alcohol, infusing alcohol with the flavors of fat—here, rendered chicken fat, glorious schmaltz. —M.R.
by Michael Harrison and Marlowe Harris
“There is a time and a place for every cocktail. The Man Harrison is made for the man who has exhausted his palate on fine wine and rich dishes, the man who enjoys his whiskey dry and flammable, the man who is afraid of neither an onion nor onion brine, the man who always has time for chicken, but doesn’t always have time for chewing. This man, a real man, is for whom The Man Harrison is made.” — Marlowe Harris, Chief Beverage Inspector, Evans & Peel Detective Agency
At Evans & Peel we do a lot of butchery in house. As a result we are left with a lot of fat. We wet-render smoked beef fat for our chili, we dry-render pig skin for crackling, and a clear fat for a dairy-free “hollandaise.” When we have chicken on the menu, schmaltz. I knew how to make it, but where did it fit in?
Having learned about fat-washed alcohol infusions from Marlowe, our bar manager—one of the highlights of our opening menu last year was a burnt ends Bloody Mary—I thought that the rich yet light flavor of schmaltz, which brings to mind roast chicken skin, was something we had to get into a drink. Cleaner spirits would bring nothing to the drink, creating what would essentially be an alcoholic chicken essence, not what I wanted. Most vodkas were therefore eliminated. Gin’s myriad botanicals and rum’s inherent spices would clash with or hide the chicken flavors. I had the idea of a whisky, but it had to be strong and fiery to balance the fats. I suggested rye to Marlowe and he knew exactly which one to go for. The pickled onion garnish was a given, seasoning the drink and playing against the rich onion flavours of the schmaltz.
Don’t be put off by Marlowe’s hyperbolic description. Although the first sip can sometimes be disconcerting, the flavours do work together. It’s a daring cocktail that carries more than just shock value.
Marlowe Harris: The idea to go with a rye was Mike’s and he’s got good instincts about these things so I decided to go along with it. The schmaltz is very potent so I knew I needed to go with something bold that wouldn’t get lost in the chicken flavor. I decided on Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof. It’s got a big, dry, and distinct taste that goes incredibly well with the schmaltz. We decided to make a sort of dirty Gibson, which is one of Mike’s favourite cocktails. I added Dolin Dry Vermouth and some of the pickled onion brine to the infused whisky. The vermouth softens the whisky while keeping it dry and the onion brine pairs beautifully with the chicken and balances out the rye. It’s not for everyone, but it does exactly what it says on the label: chicken, onion, and bold whisky. Not for the faint hearted (or vegetarians).
And so The Man Harrison was born. Somewhere between a Gibson, a Manhattan, and a bowl of chicken soup! Expect fiery rye whisky to give way to deep, rich chicken and onion flavours curtailed by vermouth and brine. You are left with a creamy mouth feel that can only be improved upon by a bite of a pickled onion. The schmaltz effectively bridges the flavor gap between the pickle and the rye. Below are Marlowe’s specs.
- 500 milliliters rye
- 150 milliliters liquid schmaltz
- Infuse the rye and schmaltz for 3 days at room temperature in a sealed glass bottle (use electrical tape around the stopper).
- Transfer to a metal bowl and freeze overnight (the fat will separate and freeze but the whisky will not).
- Quickly strain through a sieve, then a folded cheesecloth, then a coffee filter, keeping everything as cold as possible. (I skipped the coffee filter stage.—M.R.)
- Bottle and hold until ready (if properly stored, this spirit will keep for months).
- Also note that the infusion will depend on the quality of your schmaltz. Try different ratios and times to get your own preferred result.
The Man Harrison
- 60 milliliters schmaltz-infused whiskey
- 5 milliliters vermouth
- 5 milliliters pickle brine
- Pickled onions (We go for one white button onion.)
- Chill the glass of your choice.
- Skewer a pickled onion with a cocktail stick and set aside.
- Combine all the wet ingredients in a mixing glass, and taste for balance. No flavours should dominate. Whisky first then schmaltz, brine with a creamy mouth feel.
- Cover well with ice and stir, counting 35 to 55 rotations (taste at 35, you may want to continue to stir to reach the desired dilution).
- Double-strain into the chilled glass and garnish.
About Our Brine:
Our homemade pickles are done in brine, vinegar, and maple syrup. They are sweet, sour, and a little salty. You may need more or less brine depending on its taste.
Evans & Peel Detective Agency is an independent cocktail bar and restaurant in West London. A speakeasy that uses a ’20s private detective agency as its front to keep the heat off. The spirits we used have been chosen on their own merits and not as a result of any brand endorsement. The same goes for everything else that we do.
If you liked this post, take a look at these links:
- My other cocktails that feature whiskey: Meyer Lemon Fig, Whiskey Sour, and Old Fashioned.
- Watch the History of Whiskey from the History Channel.
- Esquire shares several essential whiskey drinks for the fall.
- Know what the different types of whiskey are.
© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.