Buttered Popcorn Tequila and Other Boozy Infusions Make For Seriously Good Cocktails at Searsucker
Flavoring spirits by soaking herbs, spices and fruits in them is nothing new. In fact, the practice is almost as old as distilling itself. But in the last four or five years, since cocktails went craft, infused booze (flavored with anything and everything, including meat) is big and getting bigger. It's not a flash-in-the-pan fad but a keeper for one simple reason: infusions add complexity to a cocktail.
Buchanan Seasonal berry-infused vodka percolating at Searsucker
When it comes to infused booze, Searsucker in Scottsdale has got it going on, offering eight infusions on its cocktail menu, many of them making their way into signature cocktails ($12), all of them available to be sipped neat or mixed in other boozy beverages for an extra flavor dimension ($11). The infusion that got my undivided attention? Buttered popcorn tequila, which falls into the super-trendy subcategory known as "fat-washed."
Fat-washing is simply infusing a spirit with some sort of fat -- beef, bacon, olive oil, butter, you name it -- then chilling (or sometimes freezing) the spirit so that the top layer of solidified fat can be removed, leaving the flavorful essence of the fatty product without all the grease.
Buchanan Infusion samplers -- so true-flavored you can tell in an instant what they are
Bar Manager Chris Rouns says he and his crew at Searsucker tried popping their own popcorn and tossing it in butter for their tequila infusion, but it just wasn't as good as traditional movie popcorn. So now, once a week or so, they grab seven bucks from the till and pop over to Harkins in Scottsdale Fashion Square, where they buy a big bag of popcorn topped with butter flavoring which we all know is really some sort of bad-for-you oil, but who cares when it tastes so delish?
Still, I couldn't have predicted just how yummy buttered popcorn in tequila would be until I tasted it: first straight up, then in a super-simple margarita called Latin Cinema, composed of the aforementioned tequila, pressed lime and agave nectar. Holy Cow! This stuff is amazing, offering up buttery flavor and unctuous mouth feel, the ultimate in umami-dom. I can feel and taste just a trace of buttery residue on my lips, which has never happened with a typically lean, mean margarita before.
Now we move on to a few of Searsucker's other infusions -- cucumber gin (elegant), sweet tea vodka (dangerous), hibiscus rum (tart), seasonal berry vodka (sweet but not too) and cinnamon whiskey (so good I could drink a jug of it straight).