GSN Review: Barrel Char in a Jar Kit

For those DIY spirits enthusiasts out there, there is an appeal to making your own flavor profiles. But, buying barrels, even small ones is expensive and they don’t last forever.  Barrel Char in a Jar allows you to experiment with five different woods with a small and easily stored kit that contains everything you need right out of the box (minus the spirit itself).

US laws prohibit home production of strong alcoholic spirits (beer and wine are not considered strong) as this would involve distilling; which is illegal without a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). Many of the so-called “make your own” kits actually just contain a bottle of artificial flavoring which the user must add to some kind of store bought vodka or grain neutral spirit. Real aging gets its flavor, color and aroma from the wood and char of the barrel.

With this kit, you are getting all the high-end types of wood used in the most expensive spirits. The user of this kit will be able to take a spirit of their choice, (like unaged whiskey, white rum or blanco tequila) and age it in a way that is similar to the way large-scale manufacturers do. You will get the dark color and complex flavors that real barrel aging will produce.

The basic Barrel Char kit consists of a quart size jar with two sample bottles for comparing your original spirit and finished product as well as several kinds of wood for aging. These include:

  • American White Oak (barrel char)
  • Cherry (light toast)
  • French Oak (medium plus toast)
  • Sugar Maple (medium toast)
  • Yellow Birch (medium toast)

Yellow Birch provides some burnt caramel and vanilla bean notes to spirits, while Sugar Maple adds a maple candy note to things without adding too much sweetness. Unlike some commercial products which just add maple syrup to their spirits (which you can do as well if desired), this wood adds some maple flavor without too much sweetness. With the exception of the Oak , all of the wood is harvested using hand tools in the USA and toasted in a commercial kitchen.

In addition to the 5 types of wood, with the kit you get filter papers, an instruction booklet, and activated charcoal. The activated charcoal is pre-washed so there will be a minimum of black dust. There are enough consumables in the kit to flavor approximately 2-3 conventional (750ml) bottles of liquor per wood if you don’t count the barrel char oak. If you use every flavor, you should get 8-12 bottles of flavored liquor before the consumables run out.

Overall, a fun way to try experimenting and make something new for you home bar.

GSN Rating: A

To order go to: Gnarly Apple on Etsy

GSN Alert: Cocktail & Spirits Book Preview – Winter 2019 (January-March)

(photo by Shawna Coronado)

As we enter the long season of winter, GSN hopes to brighten your day with the promise of several soon-to-be-pubished cocktail books & spirits guides about everything from tiki to tea and from Miami to Japan. Cheers!

Vodka: The Essential Guide for Vodka Purists by Dave Broom (Carlton Books) Whether it’s served neat, with a mixer, or in a cocktail, vodka’s popularity continues to grow. Aficionados will love this lavishly illustrated pocket-sized book, which covers the trendy favorite from Absolut to Zubrowka. It’s got all the basics: the history of the liquor, how vodka is distilled and flavored, where to buy the best brands, and delicious recipes, from classic cocktails to vodka-based foods, that will make a big splash. Vodka: The Essential Guide for Vodka Purists will go down as well as the most lovingly created Martini.

French Moderne: Cocktails from the Twenties and Thirties with recipes by Franck Audoux (Rizzoli) Following Prohibition, Paris, much like London, became known for serving up original and innovative mixed drinks. Although cocktails were present in the late nineteenth century, it was the interwar period, and particularly les années folles that transformed the culture of the cocktail consumption. This fertile time, both intellectually and artistically, was nourished by a growing influx of expatriates from across the Atlantic who made way for an age of experimentation and creation. The new ambassadors of cocktails made alcohols and aperitifs that were specifically French stars of the show. Alongside classic French Vermouth, locally produced spirits including Byrrh, Dubonnet, Suze, and Picon were mixed into distinctly unique cocktails. With beautiful archival photographs, illustrations, and advertisements, as well as new photography, Franck Audoux, partner at Le Dauphin and Le Chateaubriand in Paris, brings life back to these forgotten French spirits and aperitifs, by giving them a modern twist. He provides recipes for more than forty classic French cocktails, from the Sazerac to the Highball, and provides contemporary tips and tricks that make them easy to re-create at home. Perfect for lovers of history and French culture, this book captures the spirit and culture of one of the richest periods in the City of Light and is a must-have for the aspiring and experienced home mixologist alike.

The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails: A Spirited Journey Through Suburbia’s Hidden Tiki Temples by Tom Morgan & Kelly Reilly (Korero Press) Come and explore suburbia’s hidden tiki temples with Kelly and Tom. Sample over 150 of their original tropical cocktails! These drinks chronicle their time spent bartending at home tiki bars during the rise of the craft cocktail revolution, among them Kirby’s Rumpus Room, which hosted weekly parties for many years. Included are riffs on tropical classics and original concoctions crowd-tested at home bars across the U.S. You’ll also find recipes for home-made syrups, including ancho chilli, lemongrass, sesame, hibiscus, and more. Sven Kirsten—the authority behind The Book of Tiki—provides the Foreword. The book features full-page cocktail photos and glamour shots of some of the coolest home tiki bars around. Additionally, you’ll find lavish illustrations by Tiki Tony, chapter heading illustrations by Jake Geiger—a tiki aficionado and game designer for such hits as Guitar Hero and Call of Duty—and select featured art by Doug Horne, who is a true lowbrow Leonardo familiar to the tiki scene.

Miami Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of over 100 Recipes Inspired by the Magic City by Gabriel Urrutia (Cider Mill Press) An elegant collection of over 100 recipes inspired by the Magic City. Famous for its tropical climate and vibrant nightlife, Miami has been a go-to destination since the railroad could deliver travelers there from all over the United States. Today, the Magic City has become an international beacon for art enthusiasts, fashionistas, foodies, and nightlife aficionados, making for one of the country’s most dynamic cocktail scenes. Miami Cocktails takes you inside the city’s best bars and introduces you to bartenders and mixologists conjuring up drinks that reflect the myriad influences shaping the city today. Featuring over 100 recipes that honor and reinvent classics and make the best of all the fresh, year-round local produce, this book is the ideal cocktail enthusiast’s guide to drinking like a local, whether you’re making a trip to Miami or staying at home and simply wishing you were there.

Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails by Shannon Mustipher (Universe) Tiki is the endless summer, an instant vacation, a sweet and colorful ticket to paradise with no baggage fees. Romanticized since mid-century but too long overlooked as the province of suburban lodges and family resorts, the tiki cocktail is stepping into its moment with sophisticated spirits lovers, skilled mixologists, and intrepid foodies. In Tiki, Brooklyn-based rum expert Shannon Mustipher brings focus on refreshing flavors, fine spirits, and high-impact easy-to-execute presentation. Dozens of easy-to-follow recipes present new versions of classic tiki drinks along with original cocktails using quality rums, infused and fat-washed spirits, liqueurs, fresh fruit juices, and homemade syrups. Tastemakers in the contemporary tiki boom, including Nathan Hazard, Brother Cleve, Laura Bishop, and Ean Bancroft, contribute their recipes. As a true aficionado, Mustipher breaks down Caribbean rums and spirits with practical tasting notes. Fans of classic tiki bibles such as Smuggler’s Cove and Potions of the Caribbean can embrace Tiki’s modern style and spirit while new tiki fans learn from Mustipher’s expertise, accessible recipes, and clear instruction.

From Garden to Glass: Fruits, Cordials, Infusions, and other Botanically Inspired, Healthy, Non-Alcoholic Beverages by David Hurst (Universe) For the legions of readers who enjoyed The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Best Drinks, here is a new health and nutrition conscious take on making infusions, cordials, and cocktails mixers with garden fresh herbs, fruits, and spices. The Drinking Garden is a unique collection of over 70 delicious botanically inspired recipes based on what is available fresh from the garden or farm stand. These “garden to glass” recipes are for non-alcoholic infusions and cordials based on fresh fruits, garden herbs, and spices which can be consumed as restorative tonics in their own right or can be used as the basis for mouth-watering cocktails – cocktails filled with garden fresh nutrients and antioxidants, making them far healthier than ordinary bar drinks. Organized according to main ingredient, the recipes are created with an eye toward both health and taste. All recipes include fresh from the garden botanicals such as elderberries, strawberries, tomato, mints, and other herbs. Thus, an ordinary Bloody Mary is transformed into a healthy power drink by using freshly crushed garden tomatoes, chilies, and other spices. Many recipes also use “superfood” ingredients, from açai berry and avocado to papaya and pomegranate. Each creation is expertly crafted and inspired by some of the most exciting trends in bartending and mixology. The book also explains how to make professional-quality mixed drinks in your home, listing essential bar kit, fancy glassware, party planning, and finishing touches that can transform an ordinary drink into an exceptional cocktail.

Tea Cocktails: Unique and Delicious Tea-Infused Cocktails by Abigail R. Gehring (Skyhorse) In classy bars and cocktail lounges across America, tea is making a big splash. Absolut has launched a line of tea-infused vodka, companies such as Owl’s Brew are springing up with teas crafted specifically as cocktail mixers, and foodie magazines such as Saveur and Food & Wine are featuring hot chai toddies and gin-spiked iced teas. Here organic tea company Teatulia partners with Gehring to provide a stunning collection of hot and cold tea cocktail recipes sure to impress any mixologist or tea lover. Learn how to balance the unique flavors of herbal and black teas with just the right spirits to create drinks.

Japanese Cocktails: Over 40 highballs, spritzes and other refreshing low-alcohol drinks by Leigh Clarke (Ryland Peters & Small) Delicious cocktails made with minimal alcohol and quality ingredients to give maximum thirst-quenching satisfaction, featuring Japanese ingredients and flavors such as sake, whisky, plum wine, yuzu, sakura, and matcha. With the focus on delicious fruity flavor combos rather than upping the alcohol content, Japanese cocktails are the perfect beverage for anyone who would prefer to avoid hard alcohol. Using fresh ingredients, real fruits, and healthful teas, these easy-to-sip quaffs are rather revitalising instead of ruinous and allow you to feel positively fresh the next day. Drinking alcohol is accepted as the norm in social situations, and Japan is no exception, from hanami picnics to celebrate cherry blossom season to business meetings in izakaya restaurants. Rather than force you to be the odd one out to order a soft drink if you want to pace yourself, they offer a commonly available selection of classy low-alcohol cocktails. Try a Lemon Sour made with shochu, soda water, and fresh lemon juice, a Matcha Hai highball, Umeshu (plum wine) and Tonic, or Red Eye Beer made with tomato juice.

The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 24: Vintage 1800’s French Champagne Tap

Looking for a unique one-of-a-kind gift just time for New Year’s Eve? Check out this rare piece of history!

Champagne siphons were very popular at the turn of the century (19th to 20th). It allows you to pour a glass of bubbly whilst keeping the fizz in the wine. The steel tip screws into the cork (though it is recommended you drill a small hole first to make it easier). You then turn the fish tail stopper to allow the champagne to flow through and out the dragons mouth spout, keeping the remaining sparkling wine fresh in the bottle.

It measures 36.5 cm (14 1/4 inches) long. The wooden handle measures 8.5 cm (3 inches) long by 2.5 cm (3/4 inch) wide.

This is an antique from the 1800s. It has some patina of age. This tap is in excellent and functioning condition.

Order this unique piece here

The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 23: Cocktail Botanicals & Spices Gin & Tonic Kit

Love your G&T’s? Up your game by creating new flavors with this Gin and Tonic kit. The premium box contains vanilla pods, pink pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, juniper berries, ginger cut and star anise, all selected with the aid of top botanists to present you with the perfect range of flavors to augment your gin and tonic. The kit comes with a braided spoon and a handy dispenser.

Buy one here

The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 22: Cocktail R-Evolution Molecular Mixology Kit

Time for a cocktail revolution. The Cocktail R-Evolution Kit will bring burst-in-your-mouth cocktail spheres and drinks topped with beautiful, airy foams into your mixology routine, all thanks to plant-based additives and a few specialized but user-friendly tools. The included booklet and DVD come packed with information and recipes designed to have you emulsifying and spherifying liquids (whether boozy or not!) in no time. Go on, get mixing!

Order yours here

The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 21: Dale DeGroff edition Café Brûlot Set

The ultimate tribute to King Cocktail himself, this stunning Café Brûlot set will impress anyone who enjoys an after dinner coffee with a kick.

Preparations call for an orange peel cut precisely as one long, intact spiral; a lemon peel cut into strips; sugar, cloves and cinnamon; cognac or brandy and hot, strong black coffee. Most importantly, the drink requires fire.

First made at Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans, it is credited to Jules Alciatore, son of founder and namesake Antoine Alciatore, sometime in the 1890s. Bring it back into the 21st century!

Order a set here

The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 17: Fortessa Cocktail Smoking Box

The vape of the cocktail world is just the thing to impart a delcious smokey character to craft cocktails.

Charles Joly, world-champion bartender and creator of Crafthouse Cocktails, has teamed up with Fortessa to design a line of bar tools celebrating the bold spirit of handcrafted cocktails. Blending vintage flair with modern ergonomics, these finely made barware tools allow you to craft professional-level cocktails at home regardless of your mixology experience.

Smoking box for infusing cocktails and foods with savory smoky flavor.

Includes handheld smoker with smoking wood chips.

Order yours here