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Challenged by Alex Enochs (Charlatan) to create a cocktail with movie theater popcorn butter, Ryan Murphy of Crown Tap Room was "a little afraid to ask" the staff at Logan Theatre, where he obtained the ingredient, what was in it. Generally, though, the stuff that tops popcorn in movie theaters is oil with artificial butter flavoring and preservatives. (Actual butter has a low smoke point and can spoil quickly.)
Murphy had a few small containers of the oil for experimentation. He tasted it straight and "got kind of a stomachache." His first thought was to use it in hot buttered rum, which turned out to be a disaster. "It would just rest on top. It looked like an oil spill, and every time you drank it, it would just coat your lips, which was creepy," he says.
His next attempt: a cold cocktail. Murphy combined rum, popcorn butter, simple syrup, egg white, cream, and sherry, shook it up over ice, and topped it with sparkling water. "That kind of worked, but it didn't absorb the qualities of the butter," he says. "It just made it gross. [So] we looked up how you would do something like this, and the term fat-washing came up."
To fat-wash the rum, Murphy added a bar spoon of popcorn butter to a couple ounces of rum in a deli container, shook it up well, then heated it gently by placing the container in hot water for five to ten minutes. After cooling the mixture over ice, he strained it through a coffee filter. "What drips out is going to retain all the qualities of the butter that I want without getting all the junk," he says. "It's crazy; it smells like butter, it tastes like rum."
Aside from fat-washing the rum, Murphy kept all the ingredients of his second attempt the same for his final cocktail, a take on the Ramos Fizz that he garnished with popcorn (Boom Chicka Pop's "lightly sweet" variety). A fan of Billy Ocean, he dubbed the cocktail the Caribbean Cream.
Murphy has challenged Anthony Mitchell of the California Clipper to create a cocktail with celery salt.
2 oz fat-washed Palo Viejo rum*
1 oz cream sherry
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz cream
1 oz egg white
A few drops of orange blossom water
Add all ingredients except sparkling water to a shaker. Detach the spring from a Hawthorne strainer and put it in the shaker to help emulsify the cocktail. Shake for several minutes, add ice, and shake again until you can't hear the ice. Pour about an ounce and a half of soda water into a tall glass, strain the cocktail over it (after reattaching the spring to the strainer), and garnish with popcorn.
*Fat-washed rum: Add a bar spoon of movie theater popcorn butter to two ounces of rum, shake well, and heat gently over hot water for five to ten minutes. Cool over ice, then strain through a coffee filter.