Barrel Aged Cocktail Update

Barrel Aged Cocktails Project - Barrel No.2

Throughout December and into January we have been waiting patiently to decant barrel No.2.  The rigorous task of integrating our latest flavour combination came again with its challenges however no leaks this time! Week one saw little change as the bourbon began to mingle with its new found friends; Martini Rosso and Martini Dry.

By week two we started to see a softening and more integration taking place between to components of our Manhattan cocktial and the oak.

Week three saw sweetness prevail as the over-proof 47% ABV bourbon started to dominate proceedings with and a persistent attack of fresh vanilla and French oak.

Week four was an intensified version of week three which lead me to siphon the final mix where the three components became one and the barrel aged Manhattan was born! It is this sweet molasses that builds in the bottom of the barrel that leads me to abandoning the Maraschino cherry liqueur later on in the recipe. 

I'm really proud of what we've produced and it is now available to purchase for you to enjoy at home. We now have available two batches of aged Negroni and one Manhattan!

Origins Of The Manhattan

The original Manhattan cocktail was a mix of American Whiskey, Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters". Created in the 1870's this cocktail has somewhat evolved from its predecessors. During Prohibition (1920–1933) Canadian whisky was primarily used because it was readily available under the counter at your local pharmacy or in a dark hideaway in the depth of the New York drinking scene.

Alcohol during this period was banned, Prohibition was in full swing and being caught sipping any form of alcohol during this period was a criminal offence unless prescribed by the doctor for medicinal use. When I am 'out and about' drinking a Manhattan I like to think of it as a privilege to be able to simply quote the name Manhattan in one of our many bars across the island and not be locked up for it! True history in a glass whatever form it arrives in and believe me there are some shocking variations, good as well as bad.

Traditional views insist that a Manhattan be made with American rye whiskey. However, more often than not, it is made with bourbon or Canadian whisky, whatever the black market could get their hands on. The Manhattan is subject to considerable variation and innovation, and is often a way for the best bartenders to show off their creativity. Some shake the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker (not my preference) instead of stirring it, creating a froth on the surface of the drink. Angostura is the classic bitters, but orange bitters or Peychaud's bitters may be used. (On a personal note I like a ratio of 2 dashes of Angostura and 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters. Peach bitters really work well if you are using a bourbon as it compliments the sweetness and adds a little dryness too).  Some people with the know how make their own bitters and syrups, substitute comparable digestifs in place of vermouth such as Picon, Green Chartreuse & Lillet Blanc. Others specialise in local or rare whiskeys or use other exotic ingredients. The zest from a lemon peel is essential for the preferred garnish. Some add juice from the cherry jar or Maraschino liqueur to the cocktail for additional sweetness and color, very typical of the American culture for sweeter styled drinks, in Europe typically cherry syrup will not be found anywhere near the finish product. 

Adding Value To The Perfect Serve - a bar tenders perspective

The first and most important piece of information I can pass on to you is regarding the addition of bitters to the cocktail before it enters the barrel. Under no circumstances should you do this as it will completely taint, clog and destroy any delicate flavours that the barrel can give to your mix. From the  perspective of a barman you need to savor some theatrics for the consumer, pouring 50ml-75ml of liquid from a barrel and simply diluting it does nothing for either the showmanship of the product or show a great deal of care to the end product and the discerning customer.

Bitters should be added at the mixing stage of the cocktail, the barrel aged cocktail should only contain base spirits and liqueurs. Once ready to make the cocktail a great deal of care and manipulation needs to be shown. A delicate flick of the wrist whilst pouring the bitters, the fancy bar spoon roll, adding sweetness to taste and presenting a crisp clean napkin to the parched individual. The tasting of this cocktail needs to be measured throughout the process in-between all stages of the dilution process to manage the overall outcome of the beverage.

The Manhattan will taste like a great Manhattan without all this faffing about. The barrel will bring a softness, a well rounded experience of integration with hints of vanilla and warming french oak... but the flair and the attention to detail will add some invaluable theater and value for money, heightening the expectations and creating an all round confident aroma that this drink will be one of the best versions you can try. 

 Finishing The Cocktail At Home

For all who wish to have a show stopper at a friends and family gathering I have the perfect serve for you.

You will need, a mixing tin/glass, Angostura and Peychaud's bitters (available from Love Wine) a long spoon, peeler and a lemon.

First start by measuring out 75ml to 50ml of our barrel aged  Manhattan and add to your mixing vessel. In the mixing vessel add 2 dashes of Angostura and 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitter.

Fill to the brim with ice, good dry ice from the freezer if you have it, a trusted method that usually works dependent on the quality of ice is 10 stirs left and 10 stirs right. Once stirred make sure to taste the mix, you are looking for the harsh burn of the alcohol to have subsided, a smooth but not watery taste is required.

Strain this mix through a sieve into your vessel and take your peeler, peel a thumb size piece of lemon and place it between your forefinger and thumb, squeeze gently to release the aromas and oils over the drink. To test that you are getting the oils that you require hold it up to a bright light or a match, you should see very faint clouds of oils coming from the lemon skin. It does take a little manipulation to get this right but once mastered you will be zesting all types of fruit I promise.

Sit back and enjoy your 1870's barrel aged Manhattan!

Cheers! Kevin 


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