The Pickled Pig: Eric Alperin mixes bacon and gin
"I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast."
-- W.C. Fields
Eric Alperin, on the other hand, has devised a clever way to mix Fields' favorite pre-breakfast aperitif with America's most cherished breakfast food, bacon. He calls it the Pickled Pig, and this unholy creation has earned him a spot in the finals of tonight's Marvelous Hendrick's Limerick & Cocktail Competition.
Held at the Edison, this puckish annual competition will feature eight top bartenders from around the country competing to see who can concoct the most delicious and/or outrageous gin-based drink. In a competitive format like this, Alperin prefers to test his creative prowess with alcohol rather than making something that drinkers would be likely to order at a bar. When he opens Varnish, his speakeasy inside Cedd Moses' revamped Cole's, later this spring, "The Pickled Pig is not going to be served," he says. "It's just not realistic."
The Pickled Pig begins with a "fat wash," which can be done many ways. After slow-cooking bacon in a pan with butter, Alperin took the bacon straight from the pan and added it (including the grease and gristle) to a liter of gin that he'd poured into an open-mouth jar. He covered it, let that sit for six to 10 hours, then opened it, pulled out the bacon pieces and threw it in the freezer, so the fat would freeze but the gin wouldn't. The result is a frozen top layer known as a "fat cap." Alperin scooped off the fat tap and threw it away. He then strained the remaining liquid through a coffee filter to remove excess fat pieces. He combined the bacon-infused gin with a homemade cucumber simple syrup, some red wine vinegar and three drops of rosewater and garnished the whole thing with dried rose petals and bacon crumbles. "It was weird but incredibly well balanced," Alperin says.
Despite his previous success, he won't be repeating the Pickled Pig tonight. Though he won't reveal his concoction for the competition, which is not open to the public, he did give us a couple of hints: "It's going to be savory, but while the other cocktail sounded more like a late lunch, this might be an early morning cocktail."
-- Elina Shatkin
Photos: Left: Bacon soaks in gin for the Pickled Pig; right: Eric Alperin mixes a cocktail. (Courtesy of Eric Alperin)