Barrel Aging Cocktails (without a real wood barrel)

Barrel Aging Cocktails // stirandstrain.comScience Magic! The idea of ingredients going into something and coming out weeks later transformed into something else is a culinary world of mystery that intrigues me. When the concept of barrel aging your own cocktails became a trend I was all on board. It was yet one more way I could control and experiment with drinks.

Here in Los Angeles barrel aged cocktails are now familiar faces on menus but that’s where they seem to stay. I guess there isn’t really a consumer market for large barrels of one cocktail.

Wait. There is at MY house.

For some time now I’ve been dying to try barrel aging at home since it seemed like a DIY project that was very hands off. Step 1, booze goes into barrel. Step 2, wait around a bit. Step 3, uncork and enjoy. Pretty easy, right?

I thought so and accepted the challenge from Uncommon Goods* to try out barrel aging on a small scale (meaning without a barrel). Instead a barrel stave is stuck in the jar with the cocktail ingredients. It’s still all an easy to handle project scale. It’s also a cheaper alternative to buying a barrel and needing to explain to Christopher that the hallway closet is now the home of said barrel and nothing else.

The big question now is…. WHAT TO MAKE IN IT??? I could go for a Manhattan or a Negroni but really, I’ve had those barrel aged versions so many times out at bars that there has got to be a better cocktail to age. I’m wavering between a Hanky Panky and a Martinez. Can someone out there help me pick? Would a Martinez get too soft in there, or a Hanky Panky get too.. herbal?

If you all would like to try your hand at some DIY cocktail and boozy projects, Uncommon goods has a bunch of fun sets on their site over here. In the meantime, I’m going to weigh the pros and cons of what to make and if someone has a better idea, I’ll think about that too.

Stay tuned to find out who made it into the barrel the week of February 24th! And if you’re in L.A. I might invite you over for a taste.


*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. Uncommon Goods are supporters of independent artisans and place importance on the designer. Got a design you think they might like? Check out their design challenges. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

9 Responses to “Barrel Aging Cocktails (without a real wood barrel)”

  1. Hi, oak chips / staves / shavings work a bit differently than barrels.This is a simplified take as the barrel aging process is very complex but basically – Both expose the liquid to oak and allow for the spicy,bitter,sweet,tannic compounds to be extracted. But barrels are porous which also allows oxidative reactions to occur, which is a larger component to the softening or mellowing that occurs when spirit ages in a barrel. Chips won’t soften things as they don’t allow for evaporation or oxidation effects.

    Chips etc are still useful for providing oak flavoring, but you’ll want to be a bit careful about how much oak you employ. Most of the oak stave & chip products are toasted (rather than the char that is typical for spirit barrels) and designed for the supplemental oaking of wine, so they provide a lot of surface area to increase extraction of the tannic component of oak. For oak cubes, a common usage rate for wine is about 3 gram per liter of wine for a few months. For spirits that rate works too, but the extraction happens a bit quicker because of the increased alcohol content.

    At the small scale (it looks like you are using a 375 ml bottle) things can get over extracted very quickly, so you’ll want to check it every day. If you want to experiment with the impact aging on a stave will have on a cocktail, take a gram or two of the wood and simmer it in a couple ounces of water with the lid on. After it has cooled you’ll have an oak tincture which you can dropped into a cocktail to get a feel for the taste and smell of oak.

    Hope that helps a bit, at the distillery we’ve used everything from chips up to 55 gal barrels and they all have different jobs.

    • This is SUPER helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write here! This is going to help me with adjustments to the recipes.

    • I’m not sure if this is quite equivalent to barrel aging, but I’ve had pretty good results. Instead of capping the bottle I’m oak aging in with oak cubes, I put about 4-5 layers of cheese cloth on top. It allows for some minor evaporation(The angels share), and allows some air in to to oxidize.

  2. I gave something like this a try once as well. It was fun, but a little undependable maybe. Of course you are far more attuned to the details than I so I’ll be interested to your results. GREG

  3. I’ve used this kit for manhattans and negronis. I currently have a batch of old pal sitting in one for this weekend.

    I think hanky panky might work nicely!

  4. I’ve often thought the Toronto would make a good subject for barrelling. I’m looking forward to hearing how your experiment turns out.


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>