More and more bars are seeing the value in offering “house made” ingredients in their cocktails; from syrups, bitters and tinctures to fresh juices. Barrel aging can be another way to customize your ingredients and make your cocktails unique to your bar. You can age full cocktails right in the barrel or create new base spirits that you can use in a handful of different drinks.
Thanks to our friends over at Deep South Barrels our team has been experimenting with “office aged” cocktails. Here’s the results of our first 3 batches.
A classic cocktail with a new spin. We’d heard of a few places that have done a barrel aged manhattan, including our neighbor Grant Grill at the US Grant Hotel, so this was a no-brainer first choice.
– 3 parts bourbon
– 1 part sweet vermouth
– bitters to taste
Aged 75 days.
The oak softens and rounds out the edges of the drink. Vanilla from the wood plays nicely with the spiciness of the bitters. A bit of oxidation from the vermouth is present but isn’t off-putting. Overall this is a crowd pleaser.
Tequila with Coffee and Vanilla Bean
We started with a silver tequila and added a fresh split vanilla bean and a small handful of crushed dark roast coffee beans. The goal here was a spirit that could be sipped like an añejo or used as a base for fall cocktails.
– silver tequila
– split vanilla bean
– 5 crushed dark roast coffee beans
Aged 3 months
The clear spirit picked up lots of color from the barrel and is now closer to reposado or añejo. Tons of vanilla on the nose. Lots of oak and vanilla taste with a quick coffee hit on the back end. Nice for sipping but would be great in a mexican hot chocolate, in a cocktail version of a horchata, or in a hot spiced apple cider with cinnamon.
“Bootlegged” Mark’s Bourbon Whiskey
Deep South Barrels has what they call “Bootleggers” which are additives that are meant to be mixed with a neutral grain spirit and then aged to create similar flavor profiles to big well known spirit brands. Can we make something that tastes like a certain bourbon brand out of cheap vodka? Let’s find out!
– 100% grain neutral spirit (cheap vodka)
– Mark’s Bourbon Whiskey Essence
Aged 3 months…so far
Based on side by side tasting results the bootlegger doesn’t have the body or mouthfeel of the bourbon. The bootlegger also still has a significantly hotter alcohol burn and sharpness. This bad boy still needs time to settle down. We’re going to leave it in the barrel and see what more time does to this one.
Overall we’ve had a blast doing our first batch of barrel aging and we’ve already got a new batch of ideas mellowing on oak right now. We highly recommend picking up a few barrels for your bar or home and experimenting on your own.