Barrel-aged cocktails are being poured at bars from San Francisco to Boston. They are exactly what they sound like, complete cocktails aged in barrels, just as if they were wine or whiskey.
At Dram in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an aged Martinez, a 19th-century cocktail founded on gin and sweet vermouth, can be sampled. At the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Roof Club, there’s an cask-seasoned star cocktail, made of apple brandy and sweet vermouth. Temple Bar, near Boston, takes its time with a Negroni.
Barrels give whiskey much of its flavor, and all its color. With cocktails, the wood imparts flavors of vanilla, caramel and certain spice notes. Vermouth becomes a bit oxidized from exposure to air through the wood. And practitioners say the various alcohols integrate in the process.
The trend took off last spring after the Portland, Ore., bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler posted his experiments with barrel-aged drinks, and a few recipes, on his blog (jeffreymorgenthaler.com), well read in cocktail circles.