Making 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:Next 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!