I’ve been intrigued by barrel-aged cocktails ever since I had the Foghorn at Girl & the Goat last summer. When I got home and googled the ingredients, I kept coming across the Martinez which led me to the barrel-aged Martinez. I was really excited to try aging cocktails, especially once I poked around the internet a little bit more and realized you could age just about anything (minus fresh ingredients) to make a more mellow and slightly different cocktail. I researched and researched barrels vs wood chips. Aging in a barrel seemed more “authentic” and fun, but shipping wood chips was a more economical option. But when it came down to it, aging my first cocktails in a barrel just made me more excited about the project, so I went with that.
So back in December (notice the Christmas decorations in the picture above) I ordered my barrel from Oak Barrels Ltd. Their prices seemed reasonable (though, I’ve never ordered a barrel before, so take that for what it’s worth) and when I asked a question about their manufacturing process, I received a clear, friendly and positive response. Their barrels are made by a cooper in Mexico who sources the wood from American barrels. I bought the 1-liter black hoop barrel. I was going to go higher end with the galvanized hoops or the brass hoops, but the barrels can only be used three to five times before they don’t seal anymore, so I figured I would buy the least expensive barrel this time since I was just experimenting.
The barrel is hilariously tiny, but mighty. It holds thirty-three ounces which is enough for about eleven magically aged cocktails. I followed the directions and rinsed the barrel and filled it with water for a few days so it could swell and seal properly. Then I rinsed it some more and I was ready for mixing.
Then I used my math “skills” to create the recipe, basically dividing how many cocktails I could get out of a one liter barrel and then multiplying the basic recipe for a Martinez by that amount. Because the recipes for a Martinez vary greatly–some have a 2:1 ratio of vermouth to gin, some have a 2:1 ration of gin to vermouth, some are 50/50, I felt like I had a little freedom to play around with my recipe to make it work for the barrel size. Here’s my “recipe” for a one liter barrel:
21 oz gin (I used Letherbee because I happened to have two bottles on hand.)
11 oz sweet vermouth
1 3/8 oz maraschino liqueur
a few dashes of orange bitters
Using a funnel, add all ingredients to the barrel. Put in the stopper and swish things around. Then let the barrel hang out on the counter for a week or two, rolling it around every day or two and strain into a bottle when it’s ready (1-2 weeks).
Once your cocktail is bottled, pour the desired amount into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel. It’s kind of nice to have a ready-made cocktail in your cabinet!
Since the one liter is such a small barrel, things aged pretty quickly. (Oak Barrels Ltd recommends 1-2 weeks of aging for this size.) I started tasting on the seventh day and ended up bottling mine on the twelfth day. I just used an empty Letherbee bottle and a mason jar for the overflow.
I think my first try was a success. The barrel aged Martinez is richer and deeper than the freshly made version. I think it’s going to be fun to experiment with a few old favorites to see how they change once they are aged. I have a long list of cocktails I want to try in barrels this summer…stay tuned!
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