Barrel Aged Manhattans Are Ready!

IMG_3545Making barrel aged cocktails at home can seem a little challenging.  First you have to get a barrel then you need to soak it so it doesn’t leak (like mine did – which I now understand is because I soaked it then waited so long to use it) then you need to find a recipe and finally you need to wait.

In a moment of excitement I decided to buy a 5 litre barrel which seemed small when I saw it online, however once home I realized that it was bigger than I imagined and that it would take 5 litres of booze if I wanted to utilize it fully to make my first cocktail.  In the end I made one litres worth of Manhattan and it worked out ok.  I lost some to leakage and I think I lost a little to evaporation.  After the first week I turned the barrel 90 degrees so that the cocktail would come into contact with the maximum amount of charge oak.

After three weeks I started to taste it.  At first I thought that there were too many bitters,  even at week 4 I was worried it was more like an Italian after dinner digestif than a cocktail.   Finally I decanted the contents of the barrel and was surprised at how much had leaked or evaporated.  I put the bottle in the fridge and waited for the right moment to serve it.  The first time I poured one over ice for myself.  The second time I had them after dinner with my friend Jane who tho she wouldn’t come out and say it, thought it was perfect after dinner and it reminded her of Italian after dinner drinks.  Finally I realized that I had never really stirred the Manhattan over ice before pouring it into the glass (every time I have had them I have had them on the rocks).  So when Natan was over a few nights ago I gave the cocktail a good stir, strained it over ice and added some homemade candied cherries and rimmed the glass with an orange peel – this was the missing step!  The cocktails no longer had that bitter aftertaste from the Angostura instead came together in this wonderful complex mellow creation that was dangerously delicious.

For comparison sake I made a “fresh” Manhattan and the difference was very noticeable. Natan and I both thought that barrel aging gave the Manhattan a mellower and more complex flavor – there were no rough edges or high notes to the cocktail.

In short: It works! I love the idea of making several kinds of aged cocktails, decanting them in seal-able bottles and being able to offer to them to guests.

Here’s how much cocktail I got after a month of aging:IMG_3543Next up un-aged corn whiskey, which can be barrel aged to ones liking and is available from Tuthillton – although it isn’t cheap!  But I love the idea of house aged bourbon…then you could make a barrel aged cocktail with your own barrel aged Bourbon!


About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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2 Responses to Barrel Aged Manhattans Are Ready!

  1. cbcreates says:

    Been following your progress and glad it WORKED! That was a lot of bourbon to gamble with. I like that you landed on candied cherries and orange peel to round out the cocktail. Those are the same flavors we prefer—our friend makes candied cherries with Rye and sugar, and we squeeze orange wedge into the glass to play off the angostura bitters flavor. Also been enjoying them with a few muddled blackberries while they last.

    Corn whiskey is interesting. I think the challenge is working around (or removing) that corny flavor. We went on a corn liquor distillery tour in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and tasted all the special concoctions playing off fruits and flavorings. To me, that musty corncob flavor never went away or transformed into something better. But that might just be me—I drank some dank and nasty Cullowhee moonshine at Western Carolina University. Even really fruity PJ couldn’t mask that flavor.

    • urbanfoodguy says:

      I used Rye in the barrel aged cocktail and was surprised at how much I like it, actually preferred it over Bourbon. My thought with the corn whiskey is that after it has been in the charred-ak barrel for several months it will darken in color and become mellow and make that magical transformation into Bourbon, which by law has to be made with at least 51 % corn. The aging process can take years with a minimum of 3 months – my thought is that you basically would need to fill up the barrel and forget about it for several years if you really were determined to make bourbon. Part of what I am thinking is that this 5 litre barrel is too big and I’d like to get a 2 litre one so having the 5 litre one busy for several years would make it feel more like I didn’t waste money on a barrel I wasn’t going to use! Anyway thanks for following along and being such a dedicated reader here – I do hope one day to make it to Asheville or to maybe even be able to offer you a Barrel aged Manhattan right here in Manhattan!

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