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Ask a Bartender: Which Cocktails are Worth Barrel-Aging?

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Beau du Bois of The Corner Door in Los Angeles

Barrel-aged cocktails have been popping up at high-end bars for quite some time, but no two barrel-aged cocktails are the same. We've seen plenty of Negronis and Old Fashioneds, but some bartenders have been getting a lot more creative. We asked some of our favorite bartenders: What's the best barrel-aged cocktail you've made?

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Dave Kupchinsky of The Eveleigh in Los Angeles [Photo: Caroline on Crack]

"I barrel-aged a Vodka + Redbull with Green Chartreuse in a sherry-cured barrel." — Dave Kupchinsky (The Eveleigh)

"Vieux Carre is easily the most responsive cocktail to barrel aging I've found. A word of warning: a standard Vieux Carre won't suffice once you've had it barrel aged for 7 weeks." — Beau du Bois (The Corner Door)

"We actually prefer to barrel-age different ingredients or spirits that will eventually become a complete cocktail. I feel that if you come into a bar and ask for a drink, part of what makes it special is the process that it takes to make it. I have nothing against barrel-aging completed cocktails or bottling them; however, personally, I want to see the bartender do his thing." — Pablo Kovacs (Tin Roof Bistro)

"We have a few things aging right now. We are currently serving a Woodford Manhattan that has been maturing for 2 months in small charred oak casks—really great. We are also aging a tequila and a moonshine. The tequila will definitely be for a cocktail recipe, but also very smooth to drink by itself. The moonshine, going on 4 months now, we have done before; and, being a bourbon bar, we tend to serve it neat, side by side with the original 'shine, as an excellent example of the dramatic effects of aging in a new charred oak barrel (à la bourbon making)." — George Reilly (The Twisted Tail)

"I've wanted to do barrel-aged cocktails for a LONG time and unfortunately haven't found the barrel I want to use. I'm currently looking for a Jameson Special Reserve barrel so I can do a Tequila Anejo and Mezcal Old Fashioned aged cocktail." — Kenneth Gray (Fishing With Dynamite)

"I did sort of an inverse aging once with a 50/50 cognac/rye Sazerac. I made the cocktail to a 32 ounce batch with dashes of absinthe included. Bottled it and added 1 ounce of burnt bourbon barrel chips. Let it soak for only 1 month and strained through a Brita filter. It was pretty dope." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"We have been barrel-aging cocktails for the last year. One of the cocktails we were doing was a barrel-aged Cosmopolitan, 'The Age of Enlightenment.' We used Hangar One Mandarin, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur and aged the blend for 11 weeks in a Peju Sauvignon Blanc Barrel. We have actually run out of our 50 gallon batch, and are currently experimenting with a few new options for the 3 different barrels we have on site." — Chris Hopkins (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

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Ergys Dizdari of Filini Bar and Restaurant, Chicago

"I've made 3: a Negroni, a Manhattan, and a Rob Roy. I like them all but I want to say my favorite is the Manhattan because of the rye whiskey." — Ergys Dizdari (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

"I aged an Old Pal with Rye, Gran Classico, and Dry Vermouth. I loved the way the aging affected the vermouth. It's not something I do on a regular basis, but when it's done it can certainly show how barrel aging can change the flavor of a cocktail." — Jeff Faile (Fiola)

"My favorite cocktail that we have aged is 'The Seven Year Itch' which is Fernet Branca, Caprano Antica, and Zaya 12 year Rum aged in a Templeton Rye Barrel. This cocktail melds the flavors seamlessly on its own, but with the mellowing of barrel aging, it is immaculate. The charred oak softened the flavors, while imparting vanilla and caramel notes. The faint oxidation of the Carpano Antica adds a richness and roundness to the cocktail, while the bitter of the Branca really brings it all home coalescing all of the flavors." — Mariena Mercer (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

Jen Queen of Saltbox Dining & Drinking in San Diego

"I have played with a couple barrel aged cocktails. My favorites were a Vieux Carre with honey truffle bitters called 'Middle Earth,' and 'Message in a Barrel' with spiced rum, sweet vermouth and smoked sea urchin bitters."— Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"I love a barrel-aged Manhattan. The oak melds softly with an earthy, musky cocktail." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"I have done a few projects with barrel-aging. We currently have an 'Ode to the Negroni' page with a house barrel-aged Negroni on it." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)

"I have used staves to impart similar characteristics. You can slip them into glass bottles and save some space. I love aging high octane cocktails like the Boulevardier, or bitters-based Manhattan variations.  These libations hold up to a bit of softening and show amazing complexity." — Vincent Stipo (Vernick Food & Drink)

"We have had good luck with aging our specialty house Manhattan in 10 liter barrels. If I could get my hands on a used Chartreuse VEP barrel I think it would make a fantastic aged Negroni." — Ben Anderson (The Corner Office Restaurant)

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