It’s been almost seven weeks since I laid a batch of Negronis and Manhattans to rest in Deep South oak barrels. The target of 58 days is soon approaching. Tasting each one now, here are my thought on how they are progressing.
Manhattan: The wood has lent a smokiness to the flavor that is quite intriguing. This is almost ready for use. I think a few more weeks will smooth out the few remaining rough edges. Next time, I think I’ll try using a higher end vermouth and see what happens. (see my previous post about what brands I used).
Negroni: I am amazed at how smooth it has become. Really almost buttery in mouthfeel. The flavor is excellent and the balance of sweet, dry and herbal has become a cohesive whole. I might pull this from the barrel in the next week and use it as is.
Overall, it is clear that barrel aging affects the overall character of each cocktail in a positive way. I’m already thinking of future cocktails that will benefit from this process.
One month ago today, I began my first experiment in aging cocktails with two one-liter oak casks sent to me by Deep South Barrels. I’ve not done much with them since, other than rotating them once a week, and admiring their look on my bar. But, today, I pulled samples from each and gauged how they are coming along.
The first is a Negroni using Aviation Gin, Campari, and Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth. The other is a Manhattan using Rittenhouse Rye, Cinzano Sweet Vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
The Manhattan shows definite signs of wood aging, especially in conjunction with the rye. It’s quite spicy, but balanced by an almost fruity sweetness in the vermouth. It’s coming along, but not quite there yet. I’ll check back in a few weeks.
The Negroni is quite smooth and amazingly balanced considering there’s no dilution. The Campari has been tempered by the oak, and the gin has a lovely creaminess. I could drink this now, but I know that it will just continue to get better.
Overall, I am happy with the results and will continue to keep you updated with my progress.
The barrel-aged cocktail is here to stay. Originally conceived by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the movement has taken off in the last few years to the point where most major cities worldwide have bars offering their own versions of aged Negronis, Manhattans, Martinis and Tridents.
Years ago, I myself tried aging plain old vodka with the hopes of making it into a beautifully balanced whiskey with disappointing results. Recently, Deep South Barrels out of Pearland, Texas approached me with an intriguing offer. They would send me two 1 liter barrels in exchange for a series on my efforts to barrel age a few cocktails. Sounded like a plan to me!
The barrels arrived a few days ago and they look stately sitting on the review desk. One is banded in traditional black steel, and the other is a brushed silver steel version. I’m going to try making a Negroni (one of my fav cocktails) in one, and a Manhattan (my go-to drink when trying a new bar) in the other. I’ll be updating you on the process as things go along.
In the meantime, here is some more info on Deep South Barrels