Another year has rolled around and we are once again looking down the barrel of a nationwide celebration of Australianess. Having been in the country for two previous Australia days, I can state with a reasonable amount of certainty that Australianess is most often defined by what is un-Australian, rather than any real shared agreement on cultural or social norms.
There are however two obvious exceptions to my previous statement. The first of which is drinking.
Australians love to drink. They love to drink as much as Americans love to complain that the rest of the world has an unfair view of their people, based only on the actions of their Government and Armed Forces. Aussies love to drink more than the Poms like to win test cricket matches. It is the glue that binds this lucky country together and I’m sure that more than a few of my readers will be planning a day that revolves around smashing down coldies and acquiring a case of sunstroke.
The second, and, admittedly, more tenuous commonality of the convicts continent is the love of lamb. Tender cutlets and chargrilled chops, creamy fat caramelized on a leg roast, lamb is the common language and in the words of Lambassador Sam Kekovich, the antidote to un-Australianess.
As such, I thought it would be only appropriate to combine these two Australian touchstones. Think of this as a final unification of lamb and drinking. You know it makes sense.
The Southern Cross
60mls lamb-fat infused Moore’s Gin, 2 barspoons of Queensland sugar, 8 leaves of mint, the juice of half a lime.
Combine all ingredients over ice and shake hard. Strain and serve up in a cocktail glass.
This riff on the Southside cocktail is certainly changed up by the addition of the creamy lamby gin. The flavours actually kind of work together, reminiscent of the last bite of a lamb roast covered in mint sauce. It does lack a savouriness that I just can’t get away from when I think about lamb and Australia, which is why this is the second drink i tried out.
The Red-Blooded Australian
45mls lamb-fat infused Moore’s Gin, 15mls St Hallet Barossa Shiraz, 60-100mls Berri tomato juice, a good pinch of pink Murray River salt, a good few dashes of Hot Ranga Habanero sauce, 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce, squeeze of lemon juice and a stick of celery to garnish.
Combine all ingredients in a tin. Shaking tomato juice tends to break all the pectins and other fruit proteins, so try rolling the drink from end to end. I have also had success in pouring the mixture from one tin to the other ten or so times. You are after a change in the mouthfeel of the drink towards a more silky result. Pour over ice and garnish with a celery stick.
Infusing Gin with Lamb fat.
Fat washing of spirits burst on the scene a couple of years ago, with Don Lee from New York’s PDT turning heads and palates with his Bacon infused Manhattan cocktail. PDT is also home to a buttered popcorn rum toddy, which fat washes rum with butter. all of this begs the question, what the hell is fat washing? and won’t that make for a greasy drink?
Fat washing is solvent extraction using alcohol. It is a process that has been used in the Perfume industry for some time, to produce absolutes from concretes. Essentially any waxy, fragrant substance can have the essence of scent and flavour extracted by soaking it in ethanol.
This is very much a process that requires trial and error, so stick to small volumes unless you have access to discount quantities of spirit. Fat on the other hand, is usually pretty cheap.
For my spirit, I chose Moore’s from the Central Coast, a couple of hours north of Sydney. It is a reasonably floral style distilled in a Carter Head still. You could also use Jason Chan’s bush tomato Gin, if you were lucky enough to get your hands on some (and game enough to risk wrecking it) or Bombay Sapphire, if you weren’t concerned about un-Australianess or willing to make some tawdry joke about England’s role in this country’s convict past.
I made a 400ml sample, as I didn’t want to squander a whole bottle.
Step 1. Render the Fat.
I used lamb chops, in part because they are kind of fatty and in part because I needed sustenance to get me through this process. I cooked them slowly in a pan, sealing them on high heat before turning things down. I also put a rack in the pan when the chops were done and let the remaining fat collect. (This resulted in the final product being a little coloured, but did impart some caramel-ly cooked lamb tones to the fat as well. You could boil the chops, skimming the fat of the pot as you go along – the method used by the perfume industry OR you could ask your butcher for lamb drippings if you wanted to shoot for a creamy clear result.)
Step 2. Combine and Infuse.
Once the fat has cooled, but before it hardens, combine it with the gin. Don Lee infuses his bacon-bourbon for 6 hours, so I went with that as well. Go with a vessel that allows a large surafce area for the fat to interact with the Gin. I left mine sitting on the windowsill in sunlight, I’m not sure this had an effect other than keeping the fat molten. (You could go longer if you went for the boiling or dripping route, and you might get a creamier result.)
Step 3. Chill and Filter.
After six hours, pop the bottle in the freezer to set the fat. It shouldn’t take long. Pour the Gin through a conical strainer and then a coffee, or better yet, oil filter paper to remove any leftover fat and grease.
Step 4. Bottle and Enjoy.
That pretty much sums it up.
Happy Australia Day! Enjoy your day off.