"A crappy version of Spam." That's what Austin Skiles of Barrelhouse Flat and Lone Wolf pictured when Bar DeVille's Rachael Smith challenged him with potted meat. But though potting itself is just a method of preserving meat (think of paté or jarred chicken mousse), commercial potted meat actually consists of something called potted meat food product. Brands vary in their precise contents, but all appear to include mechanically separated chicken, i.e., ground bones and connective tissue processed into a foodstuff similar to the now infamous pink slime. Said Skiles, "The smell is haunting."
On top of being something you'd flee a room to avoid, potted meat is ridiculously high in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. But the last proved to be a help to Skiles, who used the stuff to make a fat wash—like an infusion, just made with fat. He cooked up a can of Armour potted meat, froze it, skimmed off the fat and put it through a grease filter, then added the result to a bottle of mezcal, the spirit he turned to after finding that neither gin nor bourbon could stand up to the potted-meat essence.
Skiles's fat wash was not just fatty but salty, and since that quality can be balanced out by a bitter taste, he thought of the negroni, a stirred cocktail traditionally made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. For his version he used the artichoke-based Italian liqueur Cynar, which he finds particularly good paired with mezcal, whose smokiness is also complemented by the sweet vermouth. He topped the drink off with some bitter citrus, expressing a grapefruit peel to serve as his garnish.
"This is easily the worst thing I've done to alcohol," he said of his potted-meat mezcal. But in fact, the name he chose for his cocktail does it a disservice: the finished drink is complex and even appealing, with a little je ne sais quois.
1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
3/4 oz Cynar
1 1/2 oz potted-meat mezcal
Grapefruit peel, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a tall mixing glass. Add ice liberally and stir well, for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe and express the grapefruit peel to release the essential oils over the top of the drink.
Skiles has challenged Wade McElroy of Trenchermen and the Sportsman's Club with truffle oil, something he himself hates.