2 oz bacon fat washed Pisco [Macchu Pisco]
.5 oz Parmesan cheese infused Dry Vermout [Dolin]
.5 oz Crushed red pepper and pasta water simple syrup
1 whole egg
Combine ingredients in a shaker, dry shake to emulsify the egg. Add ice and shake again. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with parmesan crisps and bacon pieces.
For those who mostly frequent my blog, let me tell you about a little monthly instagram contest run by @homebarawards. Every month, they pick a different theme, then amateurs and professionals across the interwebs submit recipes based on said theme. Passed contests have been low-waste based, Bowie based, story based, and even Star Wars based (obvs). Oh, and I may have come in third in that last one.
Anyway, it’s a great opportunity to really think outside the box and challenge myself creatively and culinarily. This month the theme is savory cocktails. As luck would have it, I recently went to Better Sorts Social Club here in Boston shortly after they opened, and their cocktail menu is on point. The drink that really caught my eye was the Cacio e Pepi Martini. This twist on a classic was inspired by the simple yet flavorful pasta dish of the same name, which is an amazing combo of parm cheese and black pepper that you should go eat right now. For their drink, they used vodka, gouda-infused dry vermouth, and pasta water and black pepper simple syrup. And let me tell you, they nailed it. The kick from the black pepper (the signature flavor of the dish) was right up front, and the pasta water simple syrup really brought all the savory elements together.
Upon the first sip, my wheels started turning. How else could I use this pasta water simple? What other dishes can I cocktailify? Eventually, I thought of pasta carbonara. The classic dish of egg, bacon, and cheese was the perfect candidate, mostly cuz I could just make the drink a flip to incorporate the egg. And who doesn’t like infusing booze with bacon? Or cheese?
With my rough plan put together, time to talk about the spirits. I wanted to loosely keep with the Martini drink template, so that meant some dry vermouth got a hunk of parmesan thrown into it. For the base spirit, I wanted to take things in a different direction and avoid the classic (albeit delicious) trope of bacon infused brown spirits. First I thought genever could work, but there were too many botanicals swirling around the bottle. Next I popped open my bottle of Pisco and took a whiff and sip. Nice alcohol heat, clean flavors with a hint of grape that should mesh nicely with some bacon fat. I kept the pasta water simple pretty…simple – just adding a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat.
After letting everything get to know each other for a few days, I strained out the booze and got to mixing. Obviously a whole egg went into the tin because: carbonara. After a dry shake and a wet shake, I was rewarded with a creamy pale gold drink that captured the dish in a glass.
The aroma was slightly smoky and funky, as the bacon fat and Parmesan worked their way through. The first thing I noticed on the sip was the velvety smooth body, then I picked up some alcohol heat from the Pisco and more smoke and umami from the bacon. The cheese added a sharp edge to things. Just like in the Cacio e Pepi martini, the starchy pasta water simple did a wonder job of holding everything together, adding just the right amount of sweetness and heat.
At the time of publishing, I have no idea how this will fair in the friendly competition. But that’s not really what matters. It was super fun to be so inspired by someone else’s drink, and take that template and make it my own. The lesson here is you never know when inspiration will hit you, so keep your mind engine running so you can get the creativity rolling quickly.