If you’re interested in creating some unique and truly delicious cocktails at home, I want to share with you the results of my most recent experiment: barrel aged Manhattans. Using the steps I laid out previously in Barrel Aged Cocktails: The Basics I tackled the Manhattan with stellar results.
Barrel Aged Manhattan Recipe
There are a number of ways to make this cocktail, but since I’m not a fan of sweet drinks our recipe used Rye whiskey instead of Bourbon. If you’re interested in better understanding the difference, check out our post on Rye vs. Bourbon.
Although I’m no expert, I think that successfully aging cocktails depends on starting with a drink you already enjoy. So starting with my favorite recipe I performed the necessary calculations to ensure that my 2.5 liter cask would be filled to capacity:
- 61 oz. Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey
- 23 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz. Angostrua Bitters
Needless to say I did my best to match the proportions of my default house cocktail and I think I did a pretty good job. Honestly when we’re talking about a total of 85 oz. a little variation is unlikely to make a significant difference.
Preparing the barrel and mixing the cocktail for casking was easy:
- Rinse the Barrel – Immediately after we decanted the batch of aged Negronis, I simply washed the barrel out with warm water and let the extra water drain.
- Mix the Manhattan – In a large bowl I blended the ingredients, taking a small sample to ensure I would wait a couple months only to discover my mistake 😉
- Cask the Cocktail – Using a spouted measuring cup and funnels, I filled the barrel and it fit perfectly.
Actually the toughest part of the entire process is that wait after you seal up the cask. But after my first experience with aged cocktails, I knew that they it would be worth it.
One of the lessons I’ve learned from the first batch of aged cocktails is the need to taste-test the cocktail as it ages to find when it possesses the best flavor. During the approximate two months the Manhattans were aging my wife and I sampled them about three times (weeks 5, 7 & 8) and the results were startlingly different:
- Week 5 – The cocktail was very oaky and seemed pretty harsh. At first I thought it was just my pedestrian palate, but I figured that I’d just let the aging process run its course.
- Week 7 – The change was astounding. At this point the flavor really seemed to blend and while the oaky flavor was certainly present, it wasn’t as nearly pronounced.
- Week 8 – Perfect. Everything had blended incredibly well. The flavors of the individual ingredients came together to create something that I definitely want to replicate.
Video: Barrel Aging Manhattans
After I completed my Manhattan experiment, I stumbled across this video from Distinguished Sprits which pretty much lay out all of the steps I followed exactly. Granted their recipe focused on filling a 1 Liter barrel, but everything else was pretty much spot on.
Overall I couldn’t have been happier; our barrel aged Manhattans were a resounding success. Typically I would drain the barrel and bottle the cocktails for future use but they too good; Patti and I drained about half the cask before I ever thought about saving some for the future.
In the event that you decide to take some barrel aged Manhattans for a spin, please contact me to let me know how they come out; I’d love to update this post with your experiences.