Barrel aged items v2.0

Hi there, I know, it has not been long enough between posts, but hey, I found a little free time to get some pictures uploaded and typing done!

So after I had emptied the two barrels, I decided to age some whiskey based cocktails.  I let the barrels dry out after the first experimentation, so I needed to re-prep the barrels by loading them up with water

Saturating the barrels with water

I wanted to age two of my favorite whiskey cocktails, the Old Fashioned of course, and also a Manhattan.  I just started these on Thursday, so we’ll see how they turn out in a few weeks.

Here is the whole setup with both barrels and everything I’m planning to throw together.

The countertop showing all the different ingredients.

In the smaller barrel, I decided to age the Old Fashioned.

Here is what I added to the barrel including the quantities:

750ml Buffalo Trace boubron

One whole bottle of Buffalo Trace, poured into the barrel

150ml Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

Measuring out the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

100ml Angostura bitters

The Angostura bitters, all measured out

6 dried orange peels chopped up into bits

Dried orange peels, chopped up for easy insertion (and eventual removal)

Dropping the bits of dry orange into the barrel

Label in place, let’s see how it tastes in a week!

I knew that this barrel aged version had to be different from the kind I can whip up behind the bar.  The buffalo trace would be fine in a barrel, after all it had already been in one for 9 years!  The Angostura bitters would be fine in the barrel as well, at 47.5% abv, there is little that could go wrong mixed with other ingredients in an air-tight barrel.  As for the other crucial items, I knew I could not use sugar, fresh oranges or cherries, for they would either rot or ferment, and I did not want that kind of mess on my hands.  So I opted to use the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur to replace both the sugar and cherry aspects of the original cocktail.  For the orange flavor, I decided to use some dried orange peels left over from my infused bourbon creation.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out when I remove the contents in a week or two.  Hopefully, I will end up with a rich complex version of a classic cocktail.

In the large 5 liter barrel I decided to try my hand at an aged manhattan.  Using a 2:1 ratio of Whiskey to Vermouth, I knew I should use 3 liters of whiskey to 1.5 liters of vermouth.  This left 500ml of space for a crucial but oft forgotten ingredient to the Manhattan, Angostura bitters.

Here is what I added to the large barrel, including the quantities:

3 liters Maker’s Mark bourbon

3 liters of some fine Maker's Mark bourbon

It puts the Maker’s Mark in the basket! Errrrr, I mean, barrel!

1.5 liters of Carpano Antica

500 ml of Carpano Antica measured out, ready to be added.

Pouring a whole 1-liter bottle of Carpano Antica into the barrel

Last, but not least, 500ml of sweet, sweet Angostura bitters!

Measuring out the Angostura bitters

500ml of Angostura bitters, thats a lot of love from Trinidad & Tobago!

The big barrel all ready to be rested for two weeks!

Obviously, I’ll have to report back on how these turn out.

Until then, happy cocktailing!

-W

Barrel aged items v1.0

Hello my fellow lovers of sugar, bitters, and everything in between.

So…..my last post was about how I had purchased a few items to play with at the “Lab”.  Here I am now to report on how things turned out, as well as reveal what else I’ve been playing with lately.

I definitely want to get into what I’ve been doing with the Baby Barrels.  The first thing you’re supposed to do when you get the barrels, is to prep them for aging whatever you want to put inside.  Before and during shipment from the company, the staves of the barrels become dry from lack of moisture.  The dryness creates gaps between the staves and is obviously not conducive for holding any sort of liquid.  In order to prep the barrels (as well as clear out any loose charred bits), they must be filled with water continuously to swell the wood to create a tight seal.  This process takes anywhere from one to three days, depending on how dry the wood staves are.

Once the barrels were ready, I decided to follow what Jeffrey Morganthaler had done, and try my hand at a barrel aged negroni.  I only aged it for one-week, because on the seventh day, I found that the barrel was beginning to leak a bit.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the process. Sometimes (actually, quite a bit), I get excited and carried away with the fun, and forget to document what I’m doing.  The small barrel holds just over one liter of liquid, so what I did was measure out equal parts (about 340ml, if I remember correctly) of Gordon’s gin, Campari, and one of my favorite vermouths, Carpano Antica.

I was surprised at how smooth the result was after only one week.  When compared side-by-side with a “fresh-made” negroni, the barrel-aged version definitely has a sweet caramel nose and a rich lingering finish.  Because of the small size of the barrel, the liquid inside gets more surface area contact than that of a larger barrel.  Think of a small barrel as a way to “speed-up” the process of aging that normally takes months or even years.

In the larger 5-liter barrel, I decided to try aging some gin.  I have never heard or read of this being done, and I simply wanted to experiment to see what the result would be.  I only let it sit for a week, as I still wanted to have the faint qualities of oak mixed with the strength of the gin.

The resulting product is quite interesting, it smells and tastes exactly as you would imagine it to, lightly oaked gin.  The aging had cut a bit of the acidity in the taste, and the aroma has a light woody-nut smell.  I decided that one of the best applications of this new product would be in a Martinez cocktail.  The Martinez is argued as being the predecessor to both the Martini as well as the Manhattan.  Professor Jerry Thomas first wrote about it in his 1887 book, How to mix drinks: or The Bon Vivant’s companion

How about I show you my version?

What you will need:

1.5 oz. gin (I like using Gordon’s, its a great product to mix with)

1.5 oz. sweet vermouth (I like using Noilly Prat for this recipe)

1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur (I prefer Luxardo Maraschino, well, because it’s the best)

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 regular lemon for garnish

1-2 measuring jiggers (1/4 oz.-1/2 oz. and a 3/4 oz.-1.5oz. are the two I like)

1 cocktail martini glass

1 pint glass with metal tin to create a boston shaker

1 hawthorne strainer (the one with the spring)

Ice

Peeler or knife

Method:

For this cocktail, I started with 1.5 ounces of the barrel-aged gin.

Measuring out part of the barrel-aged gin

Next I added the 1.5 ounces of sweet vermouth.

Measuring out some Noilly Prat sweet vermouth

Adding the vermouth to the mixing glass

Next, I added the two bar spoons of Maraschino liqueur.

Adding the Luxardo Maraschino to the mix

After the maraschino has been added, I left the bar spoon in, since Im going to stir the cocktail to mix it up.

The last ingredient is a few healthy dashes of Angostura bitters.

Shaking the Angostura bottle to release the goodness

Add a scoop of ice and we’re ready to stir!

Ice, ice, baby!

Round and round we go!

Use the infamous julep strainer that fits perfectly into a mixing glass and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The julep strainer, he wants to be your friend.

A perfect fit!

Nice and easy!

Perfect measurements make for a perfect pour!

Take the lemon and remove a bit of peel for garnish.

The peel from top to bottom

Express the lemon to release the oils over the glass to add the citrus aroma.

One-handed squeeze, don’t try this at home. Wait, yes, do try it!

Next, roll the peel up to create a little spiral, I rub this all along the edge of the glass and the underside of the glass as well.  The citrus oils stick to the glass and when a guest picks it up, the oils stick to their hand and hopefully make their way across their face, adding another element of citrus.  Everybody likes citrus, it makes you feel happy and elated.

Roll up a fatty!

Wiping the edge with the rind, this is for the taste.

Wiping the underside of the glass, this gets the light oils on the guests hands.

Place the lemon twist into the cocktail, and present it on a napkin while saying “cheers!”

The Martiinez cocktail, in all its glory!

I like the oaked-gin in this cocktail because it creates a nice complexity next to the sweetness of the vermouth and the maraschino. This is a great classic cocktail that is meant to be enjoyed slowly.  The general rule is that it should take you twice as long to drink it as it took you to make it.

Next up: barrel-aged cocktails version 2.0, don’t worry, I promise you wont have to wait so long in between posts!

Cheers!

-W

An Old Fashioned Cocktail

I was first introduced to the Old Fashioned cocktail in my early twenties, and to be honest, it was not love at first sight. I have been enjoying bourbon whiskey almost since I have been of legal drinking age, but the Old Fashioned just did not seem appealing. I think it had to do with the fact that it sounded so…….OLD! I suppose I always thought of it as an “old-man-drink” and never really bothered to give it a decent chance.

That all changed about three years ago. I was working as a server at Red White+Bluezz and our GM/Sommelier Russ Meek exclaimed “You’ve never had an Old Fashioned?!??!!”. I had to sheepishly admit that I had never had a good experience with one. He then proceeded to whip one up for me, detailing what he was using and his methods. His recipe was the “popular” one of today; sugar and bitters (YES!), cherry, orange, bourbon, ice, soda water.

My god, was it delicious!

It was a perfect blend of flavors and beautifully balanced. That evening I enjoyed two more creations, the last one being made by myself. That one experience had catapulted my love for the Old Fashioned cocktail into one of near fanaticism. For the next few months I constantly ordered them, suggested them, made them, drank them.

It was a glorious period of time.

I knew I had entered into a era of enjoying cocktails. By that, I mean, not just using booze to “escape”, but the whole experience of drinking and what it did to all of my senses. The sight of the orange slice and the brown bourbon interlaced with the bright red cherry. The initial smell of the aromatics of the angostura bitters and the oils of the citrus. The cool touch and feel of the condensed water on the side of the glass. The sound the ice made clinking around as I swirled the spirit against the soda and orange. And of course the terrific taste of balanced beauty as I gingerly sipped from the rim.

Over the years, I had also tried many variations, rye whiskey, irish whiskey, canadian whiskey, brandy, rum, and tequila. I tried different garnishes as well, lemon instead of orange, luxardo cherries instead of maraschino, strawberries instead of cherries. The possibilities seemed to be endless. I have also enjoyed creating my own variations of this wonderful concoction. I am even putting a “New Fashioned” on my secret cocktail menu at Hotel Casa 425 in Claremont, CA.

This past week I went on a little field trip to explore some nearby cocktail culture. I’ll get into the whole trip some other time, but I wanted to bring up my last stop which was at Las Perlas in DTLA. Las Perlas is a well-known tequila and mezcal bar, so when I saw they had an old fashioned cocktail, needless to say I was quite intrigued. After I ordered, I watched (as well as other curious onlookers) as the bar man lovingly created a fantastic perfectly-balanced well-structured cocktail. It was so good I ordered two more throughout the night and suggested it to a good friend (he loved it too).  The flavor of the reposado tequila combined with the smokiness of the mezcal made for such a pleasurable gift for my palate.  The complexity of the mexican spirits mixed with the sugar, bitters and citrus was so enjoyable, I knew that I had to try my hand at replicating this libation.  The next day at work, affectionately dubbed “the lab”, I successfully(!) re-created what I saw the bar man do.

To make this cocktail, you only need a handful of ingredients that again can be found at any BevMo or quality liquor store.  You might have a little trouble finding good mezcal, and please note that it should NOT have a worm at the bottom.  That is/was a marketing ploy and does not make the spirit any better.  With many things in life, you get what you pay for. So if you want a finely crafted quality cocktail, you may have to pay a little extra for proper ingredients.

You need:

1.5 ounces reposado or añejo tequila (I used Partida reposado)

.5 ounces mezcal (I used Del Maguey, San Luis del Rio village)

1 sugar cube

4-5 dashes aromatic cocktail bitters (I used the most well-known brand, Angostura)

1 Old Fashioned glass

Ice (actual cubes are best, the bigger, the better)

1 orange

1 maraschino cherry (If you can find/afford luxardo cherries, you will never want to use the atomic red kind)

Citrus peeler or knife

Muddler

Method:

Place the sugar in the glass and add 5 dashes of angostura bitters to that sweet little sucker.
Muddle/mash for about 10 seconds to create a syrup-like consistency.
Add the tequila and the mezcal and stir gently.
Add a large ice cube/cubes and stir again to create a little dilution.
Peel a slice of orange and squeeze over the glass to release the oils and then wipe the rind along the rim.
Add the luxardo cherry and say “Cheers!”, you just created a delicious smoky tequila Old Fashioned.

Just as you should with any aromatic cocktail, take your time enjoying it.  Appreciate the aromas of citrus and smoke.  Let the cherry add its sweetness to the drink for a few minutes before biting into it.  Try it with a peel of lemon or grapefruit instead of the orange for a variation.

Cheers!

The cocktail

So, there’s this thing called a cocktail.  Many people have had them. Few know the history and background of them.  Almost everyone knows the results of drinking too many.  What I plan on sharing here is my knowledge of the cocktail and its many different forms and ingredients.

Where to begin?  How about I talk about what this blog is named, “Sugar and Bitters”.  Sugar and bitters are two of the most basic ingredients in classic and neo-classic cocktails.  I’ve come to learn that the basic cocktail consists of three main parts; the spirit, a sweetener, and a bitter agent.  The most delicious cocktails are made when these three elements come together in the right proportions.

Back in the early days of cocktails, barkeepers used what they had readily available to create libations.  Sugar, of course, had been around since ancient times from processed…..sugar cane, or more recently, the sugar beet.  Today, sugar in a cocktail can come from the traditional sugar cube, or a spoonful of superfine (powdered) sugar.  New creations have been made with a block of raw turbinado sugar, or even the sweetness of an agave syrup can be used.

Bitters on the other hand began being produced as a medicinal “cure-all” in the early 1800’s.  Bitters manufactured today fall into two categories; digestive bitters, and cocktail bitters.  While both of these bitters can be used in cocktails, the latter is used primarily as a base ingredient.

As I said, many classic cocktails consist of a spirit, a sweetener, and a bitters.  One of my favorite classic cocktails, the sazerac, was created with little more than these three ingredients.  It is so perfect in its simplicity, I wonder why it ever had a falling out with bar culture in the States.  To make one, you need specific ingredients which should be able to be found in any BevMo or quality liquor store.

You need:

2 ounces Rye whiskey

1 Sugar cube

4-5 Peychaud’s bitters dashes (YES, it MUST be this specific bitters for THIS cocktail)

1/2 ounce Absinthe

2 Old-fashioned glasses (aka “buckets”)

Ice

Lemon

Citrus peeler or knife

Muddler

Method:

Prep one of the glasses by pouring 1/2 ounce absinthe and filling with crushed ice.  This glass will be the final vessel for the cocktail, but you want to build the cocktail in the other glass.

Place the sugar in the bottom of the second glass and douse that sucker with the bitters.  Muddle the sugar and bitters together for about 10 seconds to create a syrup-like consistency.  Stir in the 2 ounces of rye whiskey.  (Purists might insist on using only “Sazerac brand rye whiskey”, but for the purpose of this creation, any rye will do.)

Give the other glass a twirl to coat the sides with the chilled absinthe, then throw out the ice+absinthe mix.  Stir the rye as you pour it into the chilled glass, this ensures all of the mix makes it to the chilled glass.

Use a peeler or a knife to cut a section of the lemon rind.  Squeeze the lemon over the glass to release the oils from the rind and wipe it around the edge the rim.  Place the rind into the glass and say “Cheers!”  You just created a classic cocktail.

Take your time enjoying this one, breathe in and smell the aromatics, let the cocktail develop as the lemon interacts with the mix.

Cheers!