Barrel Aging – you have to try this!

Why Barrel Age – you can create your own unique cocktails or add depth to un-aged and inexpensive spirit at home using barrel aging.  Its super easy and just requires a bit of patience.

Using a small barrel, just 1-3-5 liters, will give you quick results. Even resting as little as 2-3 weeks will significantly change your spirit or cocktail. The barrel can impart hints of smoke, caramel and vanilla while making your drink smooth and complex.

One of the best barrel aged cocktails I have tried was from The Tasting Kitchen in Venice LA. Their barrel aged Negroni is made from Navy Strength Plymouth Gin, Carpano Antica Vermouth, and Campari. The aging intensifies the flavors and sweetness, while mellowing the harshness of the overproof (55% ABV) gin and creating a more harmonious palette.

But you do want to take care and not overdo it, as aging too long can create overpowering flavors. The best way to ensure you get just the right flavor is to taste your creation every couple of days (I know, tough). When it tastes great, pour most of your batch into a glass jar and serve it from there. Continue to taste the mixture still in the barrel to see if you would have preferred it more aged. There are not hard and fast rules regarding aging because temperature, humidity, barrel conditions, alcohol content all influence the aging process. And most important is your own taste preference.

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Another thing, I learned the hard way, after you cure your barrel (soaking it in water to expand the wood and preparing it for the addition of alcohol) you must use it right away.  Once a barrel is cured, you cannot let it dry out.  When it dries the wood will shrink and if you try to use it again it may leak (mine did – so I had to buy more). You have to keep you barrel with something inside it at all times.  If you are not aging a spirit, then fill it with water.

Also, whatever you have previously aged in your barrel will be absorbed into the wood and will flavor whatever you put in it next.  Use this extra flavor to your advantage.  Say you aged a sherry or sweet vermouth cocktail, you could then age a white whiskey (unaged and inexpensive) and it will not only get the woody flavors, but also the previous cocktail.

This is such a simple and cool way to create a unique cocktail.  Please tell me how yours turned out &I am happy to give you more tips on using your barrel.  Have fun!

azcw cocktail 1


Aged Vieux Carre

(Makes 1 Liter — scale up proportionally for larger batches)

13.3 ounces Bourbon
6.5 ounces Cognac
10.0 ounces Sweet Vermouth
4.0 ounces Yellow Chartreuse
1.0 ounce Bitters


Glass: Double Rocks or Old Fashioned
Garnish: Orange and Lemon Peel

Directions: Add all ingredients to your barrel and allow to rest, preferably three weeks or more, but at least one week, or when it suits your taste. (I understand if you can’t wait – it is that good!)

Once it is aged to your liking, pour 2 ounces over ice and stir to chill. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice (preferably one large piece) and garnish.


The Spanish Bullfighter

(Makes 1 Liter — scale up proportionally for larger batches)

11.25 ounces Bourbon
11.25 ounces Crème de Cassis
11.25 ounces Sweet Vermouth

Glass: Coupe or Martini
Garnish: Orange Peel

Directions: Add all ingredients to your barrel and allow to rest, preferably three weeks or more, but at least one week, or when it suits your taste.

For One Drink:

1.5 ounce Infusion
0.75 ounce Orange Juice

Serve by adding your Infusion and your orange juice to a shaker with ice and shake to chill. Double strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Alcohols to try:

White Rum
Young Whiskey
Silver Tequila