Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Cocktail - Barrel Aged Manhattan

This is my second run of using a 5 liter oak barrel to age the Manhattan cocktail.  I like a good cocktail but must admit, I'm pretty novice when it comes to mixed drinks.  My father in law is a big lover of Manhattan's so that was my introduction into that drink many years ago.

This last fall I purchase a new, toasted 5 liter oak barrel.  Upon arrival I filled the barrel with water and let it sit for about 6 days.  Doing this seals the barrel and pulls some of the astringency from the barrel.  My previous barrel I actually put in Very Old Barton BIB and then eventually made it into a Manhattan barrel.  This last October I was in Atlanta for a weekend with some guys from our bourbon club and we had dinner at Chop's of Atlanta.  The bartender there was mixing up Manhattans and I was struck by the quality of the drink.  They used their house Four Roses, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Blood Orange bitters and Luxardo Cherries.  As I sat at the bar sipping this fantastic cocktail, my mind started to churn with thoughts of doing another barrel and this time around, amping up the quality of the ingredients.

Putting those thoughts into action, I acquired the Vermouth, cherries and the bitters.  3 days prior to Thanksgiving I did a first charge of the barrel.  I waited until just before Thanksgiving since I knew the barrel influence would be greater at first fill and I was right.  The oak presence was there when we dipped into the barrel on Thanksgiving.  The base bourbon was Old Grand Dad 114 since I wanted something with some punch and we got just that.  For those that have used the neon red maraschino cherries in the past, let me encourage you to seek out and use Luxardo.  They are decadent.

Seven days ago I recharged the barrel but this time I used a variety of bottles that I needed to clear off the bar.  There's nothing wrong with this practice as the cocktail blends and melds over time and produces a quality drink; just use good products to start and you can't go wrong.  Over time the oak influence will fade and you will be left with mild barrel notes and creamy quality to the cocktail.

I'll be enjoying Manhattan's through the Christmas holiday.  It's four days until Christmas, if you hurry you might get an order in for a new oak barrel.


  1. Great idea. Did you mix all the ingredients into the barrel (including the Luxardo cherries)? I can understand mixing/aging the Bourbon, Vermouth, and bitters but I would think adding the Luxardo syrup (which is fairly heavy) might compromise the inside of the barrel and spigot. Also, did you come up with a good time-span to age the Manhattan (not sure how long Vermouth lasts outside of a bottle). Thanks,
    BRENT A.

    1. Brent,

      Cherries go in when you pour the cocktail. In fact, I also put the bitters in at that point as well. The only thing in the barrel is the whiskey and vermouth. I prefer to choose my bitters on the fly rather than having it in the barrel. As for aging, it really comes down to the rate at which you consume. If you don't pull from the barrel than often, then it can take on some wood notes. I drink from the barrel on occasion and when it starts getting low, I recharge with a new batch and just keep it going. Since the holidays, I've recharged twice.

  2. You are awesome, Bourbon Dork! We love that you are spreading this knowledge and creativity with the juice. We have a barrel as one of our perk packages on our campaign: Do you have any new barrel cocktails going? Will be keeping up with you and your bourbon antics. Cheers!