Cocktail Challenge: Duck fat | Cocktail Challenge | Chicago Reader

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Cocktail Challenge: Duck fat

Brian Bolles of Maude's Liquor Bar makes a light, summery drink with a heavy, rich ingredient.


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"It's delicious," Brian Bolles of Maude's Liquor Bar says of duck fat, the ingredient with which Aaron Dexter of the Owl challenged him to create a cocktail. "It's one of the most delicious fats. . . . But man, it's really difficult with drinks, because it's a fat. There are a few things you can do with alcohol and fats, but not many."

Bolles experimented with fat-washing, a process in which he added a bit of duck fat to cognac and let it sit overnight before straining out the fat. That created a very intense spirit that tasted too much like duck fat, he says. And it was a little too similar to bacon fat-washed bourbon—"old hat for a lot of people at this point."

Instead, Bolles turned to emulsifiers and thickeners to incorporate duck fat into a cocktail without the ingredient separating. He combined soy lecithin and xanthan gum with passion-fruit syrup and a small amount of duck fat to make a "fun but weird" emulsion.

"Passion fruit's really bright, tart . . . between citrus and mango," he says. "The flavor counterbalances the richness and the thick, heavy flavor of the duck fat. That's what I was going for, because everything I made with duck fat in it, whether it was with an egg white or a fat-washed spirit, was just so overwhelmingly rich."

Bolles says that gin tasted terrible with duck fat, and a cognac pairing made for a drink that was too intense. Aiming for a tropical drink appropriate for summer, he settled on rum. The trick, he says, was a light hand with the duck fat.

"In this drink it's all in the nose," he says. "You can't really taste it that much. It adds a richness to the whole thing, but it's not overwhelming. It's not syrupy and thick and meaty. I also thought about garnishing it with a duck leg, but I thought that was a bit of overkill."

The Quacquiri by Brian Bolles - MELISSA KLAUDA
  • Melissa Klauda
  • The Quacquiri by Brian Bolles

The Quacquiri

1 oz El Dorado three-year-old white rum
.75 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican rum
.5 oz duck fat/passion fruit syrup
.5 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz Velvet Falernum
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into tulip glass, add crushed ice. Garnish with a lime rose.

Who's next:

Bolles has challenged Lee Zaremba of Billy Sunday to create a cocktail with Red Bull. "[Billy Sunday doesn't] carry Red Bull, I know this for a fact," Bolles says. "I wanted to give [Zaremba] something kind of pedestrian, lowbrow."

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