The Salted Caramel Whiskey Project

Under the heat of June – or was it July – an idea was hatched to combine Salted Caramel Sauce from the soon to be world famous kitchen of Helliemae’s Salt Caramel, and Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.  Definitely discussed with beer in hand, something undoubtedly sour, with Ellen Helliemae herself.  We are very lucky to have a fan like Ellen; we often have the privilege of being taste testers for new Helliemae’s products.  I knew at first taste that the very rich, deeply sweet, and somewhat bitter (in a good way) caramel sauce would be the perfect compliment to the malty caramelized flavors that help to make Stranahan’s Whiskey one of the best.

With the first snow of the season behind us, and the Holidays right around the corner, it was time to get in the kitchen and see if this combination was possible.  First acquire product, which was paramount with Stranahan’s being in short supply.  After another discussion with Ellen for more specific info on the caramel sauce, a couple of sour beers, a quart of salted caramel sauce to play with was delivered.

Most of the time, infusing flavors – herbs, spices, sugars, fruit, etc. –  is really not all that difficult.  Always start with quality products, make a test batch – something like a pint (mason jars work great) – and don’t be afraid to over do it with the flavor.  You can always reduce that flavor by adding more of the straight base liquor.

Infusing anything with fat can be tricky; fat and liquid do not generally work very well together.  Different kinds of fat create different challenges in their removal.  Having never tried infusing something with dairy fat, I was not so sure of the outcome.  After a consultation with an expert – Kevin Burke – the process I had in mind was confirmed and it was time to get down to business.

Step One – The infusion.

  • One 750ml bottle of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
  • 1-cup Helliemae’s Salted Caramel Sauce
  • Double Boiler
  • Small Whisk
  • Heat proof food grade plastic or glass container, with lid, of at least 4-quart size.

For best results, break the whiskey and caramel down into quarter measurements. It is possible to infuse the entire bottle at one time, you just need a really large double boiler.

Place caramel sauce in double boiler, heat gently, and stir constantly with whisk.  Once the caramel sauce reaches a workable viscosity – about 4 minutes – slowly pour in whiskey. Once the infusion is complete, there should be no visible caramel sauce on bottom of pan. Pour into the container.

Repeat as necessary until there is no more whiskey and caramel sauce.

Step 2 – Fat Washing in the Freezer

Place covered container in the freezer.  Check after 24 hours, may take longer depending on the freezer.

The fat from the caramel sauce will rise to the top.  There should be a clear delineation, which is when you know this Fat Washing step is complete.

When infusing liquor with other kinds of fat, think bacon, this process takes several days.  The fat layer is removed until no more rises to the top.  Dairy fat is different.

The resulting top layer of fat should be thick, creamy in texture (thank you super heavy cream in the caramel sauce), and full of caramel whiskey flavor.  The underlying layer, darker in color, will be more boozy and sweet with less actual caramel flavor.  Figure out how much of each you prefer.  Skimming off roughly 3 tablespoons will cut down the fat content of the final product enough for most people.  Save this!  Can be used to top ice cream or add in coffee, for an extra-added punch.  Thinking a new Colorado Coffee may make its debut sometime soon…

The removal of the fat is basically a preference, as there is a ton of flavor and it easily reincorporates back into the rest of the infusion.  It just does not create the most visually appealing beverage when mixed with other things, especially anything with carbonation.  A definite film develops.  The flavor profile and mouth feel are both positive contributions.

Step 3 – Re Bottle

Simply decant into the original bottle. You may have a little more than you started.  Store the bottle in the freezer (longer time between use) or the refrigerator.   Swirl the bottle a few times to reincorporate before each use.

There are plenty of very delicious opportunities for use around the Holiday season.  Try a simple beer cocktail with one of the stronger flavored holiday beers soon to be available, mix with eggnog, enhanced whipped topping for Pumpkin Pie or Pecan Pie, or just straight out of the freezer and into a glass.

We’ll be pouring this delicious elixir all season long at Star Bar.  Please stop by and try one for yourself.

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

About Justin Lloyd

Justin believes that Beer, Tacos, and Cookies are the perfect foods, as long as one of them is spicy. He prefers interesting to boring, and has no patience for people that are simply taking up space and wasting air. Most of the time you can find him at the bar he owns and operates, making cocktails and friends. You should go meet him.

  • Scott S

    This sounds too damn good! Any suggestions on an alternative whiskey if Stranahan’s cannot be found?

  • Scott S

    One more question, would this same process work for something like Nutella?

  • Justin

    Not sure, betcha Ellen at Helliemae’s would know. Send her a note:

  • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    I absolutely want to make this…but contacting Stranahan’s unsuccessful. Can you suggest another whiskey. Would love a local…Leopold Brothers have one you think that would work?

    • Bess Dougherty

      Just so you kids know, Total Bev up in westy has Stranahan’s in stock if you do decide to give this guy a whirl.

  • Lydia

    I think this would be great with Leopold’s apple whiskey…also, little known secret…you can almost always find Stranahan’s at the distillery. Stop by Rackhouse Pub while you’re down there, grab an awesome burger and bother Chris Rippe a little. I recommend yelling “Hey Prohibition” as you walk through the door.

    • Barbara | Creative Culinary

      That’s my plan…went by there the other day but without enough time to stop; so it’s on the agenda soon. Thank for the heads up and the words, if not of wisdom, of what to shout!

  • Ellen

    Hey Scott S – I’ve never worked with Nutella, but because it’s got actual nut bits in it, I’m betting it wouldn’t mix in with the whiskey terribly well. YMMV.

    Barbara – did you choose a whiskey? Justin would know better, but I think that the basic process would be the same regardless of the whiskey you used. Just be a matter of what you like.

    • Scott S

      Thanks for the response. I went ahead and picked up the salted caramel sauce from The Truffle and got a bottle of Stranahan’s too. Sounds too good to stray from the original recipe.

  • Ellen

    Scott – that’s great, I think Justin has it NAILED. And it was suggested I put my contact info on here for anyone who has questions or needs vats of sauce: ellen at saltcaramels punto com; the “factory” is 7711 W 6th Ave Ste L 80214. I’m open a few Thursday afternoons this month to taste caramels (and SAUCE), tour the kitchen, and hang.

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