Essentially, barrel aging a cocktail does the same thing as aging a spirit — it tames the harsher aspects and rounds it out, creating a “more cohesive drink,”. In the case of something that has bitter elements (Campari, Cynar, Fernet, etc), the barrel helps soften out those bitter notes. Since the barrel is porous itself, there’s also oxidation that happens with the cocktail; this adds another layer of flavor to anything that has a wine base (vermouth, aperitifs, etc).
The barrel itself will imbue a lot of character. “If a barrel is heavily charred, it will impart more elements of toast,”. If the contents rest for an extended period, the heavy char will impart bitter caramel notes and add more weight to the cocktail.
When and where did this trend start?
It all started in 2009, when Jeffrey Morgenthaler, award-winning bartender and author from Portland, Oregon, started experimenting by resting his cocktails in oak barrels. He wrote about the outcome on his blog, a popular bartender read it, and before long, bartenders everywhere were premixing cocktails and ageing them in barrels.
How long should you barrel-age the cocktails?
The consensus seems to be around two to three months. You can age anything up to a year, but you get good results quite quickly that don’t lose any freshness and still add complexity and depth.
What to avoid?
Aging anything that can spoil, mold or mildew is just a bad idea. So avoid juices, dairy, eggs, and syrups that have a low shelf-life. Worst part: Not only will your drink be bad, but you’ll have to throw out the barrel, too.
Makes Three Gallons
- 128 oz (approximately five 750ml bottles) dry gin
- 128 oz sweet vermouth
- 128 oz Campari
Stir ingredients together (without ice) and pour into a three-gallon oak barrel. Let rest for five to seven weeks and pour into glass bottles until ready to serve.
Makes Three Gallons
- 256 oz (approximately ten 750ml bottles) rye whiskey
- 128 oz (approximately five 750ml bottles) sweet vermouth
- 7 oz Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients together (without ice) and pour into a three-gallon oak barrel (I prefer a barrel that has previously stored sherry, Madeira, or port wine). Let rest for five to seven weeks and pour into glass bottles until ready to serve.
We hope this information can help you out if you have any questions or doubts don’t hesitate to send us your questions.
By Gilberto Salas
Small oak barrels (1 to 100 liters)