Popcorn as a late-night snack is generally made in a microwave these days, but bartender Jenn Fink of Pub Royale and her friend Matthew Jannotta, manager of the club bars at Soho House Chicago, have a different tradition. “We’re known to, late night, go back to the crib after the bars and make all types of popcorn—bacon fat, butter, regular salt,” Jannotta says.
Which is why Fink challenged Jannotta to create a cocktail with stovetop-popped popcorn (nothing from a microwave would do). To add popcorn flavor to the drink without the actual popcorn, Jannotta infused Balcones Baby Blue corn whiskey with butter through a process called fat-washing: he melted and slightly browned the butter, combined it with the whiskey, then put the mixture in the freezer for several hours to separate out. Once the butter was mostly frozen, he broke it up with a spoon and stirred it into the whiskey again, then strained it through a cheesecloth.
The rest of Jannotta’s Better Than Garrett’s cocktail, which he modeled after an old-fashioned, was straightforward: just a little simple syrup and some whiskey-barrel-aged bitters, with a few pieces of popcorn skewered on a cocktail pick for garnish. Flavorwise, he says, “It’s sort of like a combination of an old-fashioned and a hot buttered rum.”
Jannotta has challenged Pito Rodriguez of Sable Kitchen & Bar to create a cocktail with mojo, a sauce that originated in the Canary Islands.
Better Than Garrett’s
2 oz butter-washed Balcones Baby Blue corn whiskey
½ oz simple syrup
A couple dashes of Fee’s barrel-aged bitters
Add whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters to a rocks glass; add ice and stir. Express a slice of orange peel on top and garnish with three pieces of popcorn skewered on a cocktail pick.