The Good Life

Barrel-Aged Cocktails

| By Jack Bettridge | From Joe Rogan, September/October 2021
Barrel-Aged Cocktails
Photo/Jeff Harris/Drink Styling: Duncan Fitzpatrick

Want to put your personal stamp on any drink with a modicum of expense and zero know-how?
Try barrel-aging. The setup is a small wooden barrel, a funnel and whatever ingredients go in your cocktail. The payoff is a savory drink that has the stones to stand up to a cigar. 

The short soak in wood is miniscule, taking only a few weeks, but affording a noticeable boost, as the barrel melds the ingredients in the cocktail of your choice, while lending its own savor to the concoction. Think of it as the way stew improves as it sits after cooking. Small casks can be purchased on the Internet in a number of different sizes, and some drinks work better than others.

Armed with a one-liter barrel kit from The Sexton, an Irish malt whiskey made at the Old Bushmill’s distillery, we started our research with an Irish Manhattan (made with Irish whiskey as the base spirit, rather than Bourbon or Rye). Two weeks of aging added woody notes and a slight bite to the otherwise supremely smooth whiskey. The cocktail pairs well with a medium-bodied smoke, like an Oliva Serie V Melanio. That success suggested a world of research.

A personal favorite is the Boulevardier, which is essentially a Negroni made with American whiskey, in place of the usual gin portion (equal parts Bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth). Barrel aging the drink comingles the otherwise quite divergent components and makes a stout, but nuanced, combination that cries out for an even more robust smoke—perhaps a Bolivar Belicoso Fino.

Getting started is simple. Fill the barrel with water for a couple of days to cure it and seal any leaks. Pick your recipe and do the math, multiplying the amounts so the entire volume equals about four cups. Aromatic mixtures (combinations of spirits, aperitifs, liqueurs and bitters) are the best candidates, while fruity cocktails (sours, slings, fizzes) do not improve with this treatment. However, a Martini takes on a heft that makes it a good partner for a milder smoke, say an Ashton Cabinet or a Davidoff. (Hint, use a wet ratio of one part gin to one part vermouth.)

The waiting is the hardest part. Set the barrel in a dark, cool space and rotate it every few days. Take small samples periodically. When it’s ready (two to four weeks), pour, shake or stir over ice, strain and stand back as your handiwork disappears down eager throats. 

Drink

More in The Good Life

See all
Cigar Aficionado’s 2022 Father’s Day Gift Guide

Cigar Aficionado’s 2022 Father’s Day Gift Guide

Need ideas for the perfect present this Father's Day? Here's a unique compilation of distinct gifts …

Jun 3, 2022
The Cigar Of The Year Meets The Whisky of the Year

The Cigar Of The Year Meets The Whisky of the Year

The best Cigar of the Year and the most exciting Whisky of the Year will be paired together at the …

May 12, 2022
Cigars for Warriors Celebrates 10 Years

Cigars for Warriors Celebrates 10 Years

Cigars for Warriors (CFW), a nonprofit that ships cigars directly to U.S. troops deployed across the …

Apr 20, 2022
Grant’s Revolvers And More Civil War Items At Auction

Grant’s Revolvers And More Civil War Items At Auction

On May 13, Rock Island Auction Co. is putting up several items of Civil War history on the block, …

Apr 15, 2022
An American Dream

An American Dream

Inna Tuler was broke when she fled war-torn Israel in 1991. Today, she’s the head of a California …

Mar 30, 2022
Sweepstakes Winners Get Their Prize: Full Boxes Of The Cigar Of The Year

Sweepstakes Winners Get Their Prize: Full Boxes Of The Cigar Of The Year

Our annual sweepstakes has ended and three lucky smokers have each won a box of Padrón 1964 Anniversa…

Mar 25, 2022
z