In today's hyperactive cocktail climate, new ideas travel faster than a bottle of Fernet Branca in a room full of mixologists. Case in point: barrel-aged cocktails.
The seed was planted when Portland, Oregon-based bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler tasted a Manhattan that had been aged five years in a glass vessel by noted London bartender Tony Conigliaro. Back at home in his bar, Clyde Common, he began aging cocktails in barrels instead of bottles to cut down the wait time.
An avid blogger, Morgenthaler quickly posted the results--smooth and nuanced drinks that brought new life to old formulas--and it didn't take long for others to catch on.
In New York, Greg Seider at Summit Bar plans to put a couple of his original cocktails in barrels, while Tom Chadwick at Dram in Brooklyn may be the first to experiment with an aged Martinez (a variation of the martini, made with gin, sweet vermouth and maraschino liqueur).
Thanks to easy access to mini barrels, it's only a matter of time before the craze hits the home bar. For the experimental set, a few suggestions: