Barrel-Aged Cocktail Memoirs: Vol. 1

The wood. “From boyhood to manhood, you can always count on your best friends.” This is not a tale about a man with cold feet on his wedding day, who reminisces about a meaningful youth – it is, however, a tale of companionship, and the warm embrace of, well, wood. The complexities of oak in beverage maturation have been taken advantage of for centuries. The art of wine-making should immediately come to mind, as it is an important component in what first served the needs of storage, but imparted fucking-deliciousness to many a grapes in all parts of the world. Oxidation is the name of the game, forcing a bit of breathing through the barrel to allow a small amount of evaporation and flavor concentration. Which is awesome,  but more importantly to today’s topic, the phenols (things that live in the wood) get into the barrel’s contents and work their flavor-imparting magic. This is why barrel-aging cocktails is just as a good idea as it is for wine. Of course, your mixture should be spirit-based when attempting this, or else you will have 3 month old rotten juice or things that do not taste good in your drink. As Hammurabi would say, “Gross.” The most well received method to adding spoilables is to add them right before they go in the glass. Let the booze and the wood work together with patience, and you shall be rewarded.

Now, for a little treat. Evidenced by the picture above, I had a lovely little cocktail this week when GHOST Plate & Tap released their Barrel-Aged Corpse Reviver #3, matured in a Peach Street Distillers cocktail cask. They have a fantastic bar program over there, and I highly suggest you go check out what they are up to. In regards to the drink, it is a heavenly mixture of Jackalope Gin, Lillet Blanc, and triple sec. Drawn out of the cask after 2-3 months of aging, it is shaken with lemon juice and poured into a chilled absinthe-rinsed coupe. The oak certainly smooths out the gin in a big way, making room for some honey and caramel to sneak all up into your pretty face. The Lillet offers a nice aromatic, and just a tinge of absinthe for mouth-feel and connecting all the dots. A perfect summer drink, for your not-so-perfect summer hangovers. As well, I don’t think the corpse-ghost connection can be overlooked.

Tip of the hat to GHOST’s Ken Kodys for making this happen. I am looking forward to the next one (a little birdie told me what mixture was going in the next barrel, but you will just have to go and ask the bar staff yourself).

About Jim Halligan

Jim is a modern day conquistador. When not teaching his three parrots to speak Italian, he spends time poking flags in things and calling them his own.