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.