Cascading Barrel-Aging, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Put Things in a Barrel and Be Patient

With our recent addition of four brand new 10 L barrels here at Barrel, it can be difficult to keep finding new and creative ways to fill these barrels up, and it can be even more difficult to find cocktails that work well in the barrels after we age the previous cocktails (or, what we’re referring to as a cascading barrel-aging program).  That being said, when we find something that works, it’s all the more rewarding.  These two cocktails we’re discussing today were some of the most successful and tasty we’ve had on our menu to date.

Cocktail #1:  The Charleston Bamboo


While not one of our own cocktails (this one was actually taken from Sean Brock’s newest book, “Heritage”), we wanted to pick a cocktail that was predominately fortified wine, and this cocktail happened to come along at just the right time.  While the recipe in the book calls for the Madeira to be dry, we got in a case of medium dry in a warehouse mix-up, which made this cocktail a little sweeter than we intended.  But honestly, the more time this cocktail spent in the barrel, the sweetness tended to fade into the distance.

It was very important to us to season one of our barrels with a nice fortified wine flavor, in our attempt to mimic some of the barrel finishes some of our favorite whiskey labels are currently releasing (Angel’s Envy, Bowman Brothers), and we were very happy with the result.  It was our first low ABV cocktail to go through our barrel-aging program, and it certainly won’t be our last.

Charleston Bamboo:

Dry/Semi-Dry Madeira, Grand Marnier, Peach Bitters

Stir 3 oz of Charleston Bamboo mix from the barrel over house ice and strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with a small orange swathe, expressed.

Cocktail #2:  The Godfather

When I knew one of our barrels was going to be seasoned with a Madeira cocktail, it only made sense to put a scotch-based cocktail in it the next time around.  In this case, we decided to go with a re-worked version of a classic cocktail, the Godfather.  Originally, this cocktail would have called for a mix of equal parts scotch and amaretto, but apparently, this cocktail was developed before people evolved to develop taste buds.  We cut down the proportions to look more like an Old Fashioned, and aged the cocktail in the barrel for approximately 3 weeks to get some of that Madeira and Grand Marnier on the nose and finish of the cocktail.  Our staff was one of the first to fall in love with this cocktail, and without them, this beautiful balance of malt, grainy sweetness, amaretto, peach, orange and clove would have sat unsold in storage indefinitely.

The Godfather:

2.0 oz Monkey Shoulder
0.5 oz Dissaronno Amaretto
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Take 2.5 oz Godfather mix from the barrel, stir over house ice and strain into a double old fashioned glass over a large cube.  Garnish with a brandied cherry.