Recently, one of my favorite drinking buddies
and bad bourbon guinea pigs were at Dish on Market testing out their expansive bourbon selection when something caught my eye: a small oak barrel sitting atop the end of the bar. The bartender on duty noticed me eyeballing his barrel.
Me: “Nice addition to the decor”
Bartender: “Yea its functional, too. You should get you one.”
Me: “What the hell would I do with that?”
Bartender: “What the hell wouldn’t you do with your own barrel?”
(Turns out he had been aging his own pre-made Manhattans in the barrel. He poured some over the rocks and handed it to me.)
Me: “…shut up and take my money.”
Before that night I had hardly considered what I could do with my own oak barrel. Afterwards, the sky was the limit. Barrel aged bitters? Oak barrel aged home beer brews? My own pre-made cocktails?
Yes. Yes. And Hell Yes.
On top of my ideas for cocktails, turns out one of my best friends is tying the knot, and mini oak barrels were named a one of the top 8 Groomsman gifts by Maxim and the # 1 Groomsmen Gift by AskMen.com.
I ordered 2.
After almost a week of hounding the mailman and tracking my shipment across the country like I tracked my NCAA bracket, my brand new, charred, white oak barrel was delivered to my doorstep. Alas, Christmas day was to be delayed for a few hours – before you can use your new barrel, it has to be “cured”. Curing the barrel seals
First, you must “cure” your barrel. Because the barrels are not made with any glue or nails, the wood relies on the moisture from the spirit to expand the wood and keep the wooden staves sealed tight to ensure there are no leaks. Here are the instructions that came with the barrel:
1) Fill the barrel with warm water (it might leak, that is okay)
2) Immediately empty the barrel
3) Let the barrel sit empty for 3-4 hours. This will allow the wood to swell and the joints to seal tight
4) Fill the barrel again with warm water. If it continues to leak, repeat this cycle 3-4 times until the barrel no longer leaks.
Once you have gone through the process a few times, your oak barrel is ready for glory! Here are a few recipes that I used to get the most out of my new baby!
Oak Barrel Aged Cherry Bitters
Servings: Makes about 10-12 drinks.
Cook Time: 2 months
- 12 oz dried tart cherries [Purchase]
- 1 oz milk thistle [Purchase]
- 4 oz lemon peel
- 1 tablespoon black walnut leaf [Purchase]
- 1 tablespoon bitter blend (rose petal, burdock, milk thistle, dandelion, apple, barberry, fennel, fringe tree)
- 1 tablespoon wormwood [Purchase]
- 2 teaspoons clove
- 4 star anise [Purchase]
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Empty bitters bottles [Purchase]
Place 4 oz of cherries in an empty 750mL bottle and fill with 101˚ bourbon
Repeat with the rest of the cherries (3 bottles in total)
Place the milk thistle and walnut leaf in an empty 750mL bottle and fill with 100˚ rye
Place lemon peel in an empty 750mL bottle and fill with 100˚ (or higher) vodka
Place bitter blend and wormwood in an empty 750mL bottle and fill with 100˚ rye
Place the remaining ingredients in an empty 750mL bottle and fill with 101˚ bourbon
Shake all ingredients daily
*Yes, you will look like a mad scientist. Yes, your significant others will be pissed at all the strange jars lining your countertop. Yes, you will wonder if all the work is worth it. Yes will be your answer!
After one week strain out bitter blend bottle
After three weeks strain out all but cherry filled bottles
After four weeks strain out cherry filled bottles
Blend all liquids together to achieve desired flavor profile
Add 6 oz honey vodka (42 Below) (for added complexity)
Add 4 oz Caramelized sugar for needed sweetness, texture and complexity
Taste again and make adjustments if necessary (perhaps sugar if too bitter)
if one flavor is too subtle, take the leftover solids that have been filtered and add water and cook over heat to extract more flavor: add to mix until balanced
Filter the resulting bitters
Place bitters in oak barrel and age for two months
Extract bitters from barrel and filter again
Add two liters of water and stir
Bottle and raise your fists in triumph.
Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout Home Brew
Making your own Bourbon Ale is both easy to do and easy to screw up. Luckily, Barley & Vine has put together an entire DIY kit that has everything you need so you dont botch it. Buy a kit here, and finish your home brew with a 1 month log nap in your barrel.
Barrel-Aged Manhattan Cocktails
Servings: Makes about 10-12 drinks.
Cook Time: 28 days
- 2L charred oak barrel (You can get them here)
- A fifth (750ml) of bourbon
- 7 fluid oz sweet vermouth
- 1 fluid oz Angostura bitters
Pour everything into the barrel and plug up the bunghole with the stopper and make sure it’s snug. Every 7 days, roll the barrel 90 degrees to make sure that the all the insides of the barrel give equal time to your bourbon concoction. After 28 days, pour 2.5 – 3 shots into a glass full of ice to stir and strain into a chilled glass; or pour into a rocks glass with a few chunks of ice. Garnish with Maraschino cherries and some orange zest.
– Credit: Something Edible