Bacon vodka is vodka infused with bacon flavor, part of a larger trend of “carnivorous cocktails” and the addition of savory flavor to mixed drinks. The infused alcohol can be sipped but is typically used in mixed drinks like the Bloody Mary or bacon martini.
Bacon-flavored vodka infusions can be made by pouring 120 g (4 oz) of bacon fat in 750 ml (a fifth) of vodka, continuously stirring, freezing and then removing the fat off the top. The process is known as ‘fat-washing’.
Meat-infused beverages are nothing new to the cocktail world, some famous examples include the “Bull Shot” at Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunt,Harry’s Bar, in Venice, Italy, in the 1940s. These type of drinks have been referenced by writers as far back as the 17th century, including by John Locke and Samuel Pepys, who imbibed and wrote about savory-infused ales. A handful of bars and mixologists have been making bacon or other meat-infused cocktails for years, including the Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas and New York, which has been famous for their “Bacon Martini” for over a decade, Smirnoff have also started doing bacon flavoured shots in some bars and pubs, unlike some, these are vegetarian friendly. Bacon and other meat-infused cocktails have only recently started enjoying wider appeal as mixologists have noted that “meat brings out the smokiness of the whiskey [and other cocktail combinations]”. Mainstream interest in bacon vodka has been further driven by a pop-cultural interest in bacon, often called bacon mania.
In April 2009, Seattle-based Black Rock Spirits released a commercial version of bacon-infused vodka, which is known as “Bakon Vodka”. The vodka was a result of two years of testing. Black Rock’s vodka is a potato-based spirit, created using a single heating process of column distillation in an effort to keep the alcohol from “bruising”. Bakon Vodka is currently available in about 40 states. It retails for about $30 per bottle. Black Rock Spirits has reported to have had commercial success to date, expanding production based on the demand.
“After hours” reporter Sam Sessa of The Baltimore Sun has described it as having a “robust, meaty aroma that pleased the palate, grounded by a sharp undercurrent of liquor.”
“Food and Beverage World” said of the vodka “[I was] amazed at the mouthfeel. It was warm and had more substance than just vodka alone, and it actually tasted like the bacon I had last Sunday morning! It also reminded me of smoked pork. Swallowing it clinched the deal. It was among the smoothest vodkas I have ever had with absolutely no bite… It gave the drink a hint of smokiness and of course a subtle bacon flavor that really, really worked well.”
Bakon Vodka has since received critical acclaim by professional mixologists, winning the 2010 Silver Medal winner in the Wine and Spirits category in the Beverage World BevStar Awards, and a Silver medal in the 2010 SIP Awards International Spirits Competition. In November 2010, Bakon Vodka was awarded a Gold medal and rated “92 points – Exceptional” by the Beverage Testing Institute’s International Review of Spirits, the oldest and one of the most widely regarded spirits competitions in the US. The review notes:
Clear. Convincing aromas of fatty smoked maple bacon with a supple dryish medium body and a caramelized bacon, fig, and limestone finish. Mmm bacon. A must try for Bloody Marys.
The Tasting Panel magazine, the most widely circulated trade publication in the beverage industry, selected Bakon Vodka as a “Publisher’s Pick” for their September 2010 issue, giving it a score of 93 points. The review notes, “The smoky bacon nose is not at all contrived; in fact, it’s tempting as all get-out. The palate is just as authentic: clean and slightly sweet with a how-did-they-do-it authenticity. No heat at all, merely slightly peppered and delectable.”
Bakon was also featured in a number of TV programs including The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The Today Show.
Black Rock Spirits, the maker of Bakon recommends sipping the vodka rather than taking it as a shot because of the strong smoky flavor. In a mixed drink the most popular recipe is Bakon Vodka flagship cocktail, a variation on the Bloody Mary called the “Bakon Mary”, where traditional vodka is substituted with Bakon Vodka. The Bacon Caesar, popular in Canada, is a variation of the Bloody Mary that uses Clamato or clam broth.
The creation of Bakon Vodka has inspired bartenders to create a number of cocktails based on the infusion, where the smoke and umami flavor accents other more traditional flavors. Popular drinks with Bakon Vodka include the Bakon Martini, the Bakon Russian (similar to a White Russian) and the Bakon-Chocolate Martini. It can also be used in a marinade for meats such as steak, or straight in a Bakon-Vodka Oyster Shooter.