Bartending Guide: Barrel Aged Cocktails

Trends come & go in the bartending world with some sticking around for years whilst others fade into obscurity over time never to be heard from ever again. There is a ‘trend’ in TRENDS though that I’ve noticed over my long career in bartending. The more difficult the new

‘technique’ or ‘idea’ the quicker in disappears from magazine article pages or instagram blogs. One of the trends that saw this treatment is ‘Barrel-Aged Cocktails’ that was pioneered simultaneously by the UK & USA. The US pioneer was none other than Jeffrey Morgenthaler in his original post all the way back to 2010. This sparked a huge global trend in buying small barrels from the USA & barrel aging anything one could find in his liquor cabinet. Just as quickly as it rose the trend quickly died because it faces a lot of issues such as price costs of production, space required in a bar to use & ultimately the flavour itself was unpredictable. In other words just like any technique it required time to learn & skill to use. In the fast paced world of bartending...

So without further ado the original article from Jeffrey Morgethaler that spiked the interest:

This is the post that started it all: the genesis of Barrel Aged Cocktails.

Inspired by a visit last October in London last fall, where Manhattans are aged in glass vessels to sublime and subtle effect, the barrel aged cocktails I’ve been serving at Clyde Common this year are a decidedly American curiosity.

The rub of aging cocktails in a glass bottle is that the whole premise is built upon subtlety, as we know that spirits aged in glass or steel do so at an unremarkable pace. Being from the United States, where – as everyone is aware – bigger equals better, I pondered the following question: what if you could prepare a large batch of a single, spirit-driven cocktail and age it in a used oak barrel?

A hundred some-odd dollars in liquor later, I was nervously pouring a gallon of pre-batched rye Manhattans into a small, used oak cask whose previous contents were a gallon Madeira wine. I plugged the barrel and sat back in anxious anticipation; if the experiment was a success I’d have a delicious cocktail to share at the bar – if it was a failure then I’d be pouring the restaurant’s money down the floor drain.

Over the next several weeks I popped open the barrel to test my little concoction until I stumbled upon the magic mark at five-to-six weeks. And there it was, lying beautifully on the the finish: a soft blend of oak, wine, caramel and char. That first batch sold out in a matter of days and I was left with a compelling need to push the process even further.