Four Tasty Barrel-Aged Cocktails
Roll Out the Barrels: “Reusing” is one of the main pillars of earth-friendly practices — and we must say, reusing old wine and spirit barrels to infuse alcohol with delicious, subtle new flavours is one of the best reuse ideas ever. According to mixologists, cocktails aged in oak tend to develop deeper, more complex flavours without a harsh alcoholic burn. Refreshingly low tech, this new trend is on tap at a number of Four Seasons bars and lounges. The small batches sell out quickly and sometimes aren’t even on the bar menu, so be sure to check with your friendly bartender.
Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, home to YEW seafood + bar, has three barrel-aged cocktails in constant rotation: the Black Walnut Manhattan, the Vancouver and the Negroni, made in new American oak barrels with a medium char. And while barrel-aged recipes tend to make enough for dozens of drinks (perfect for a signature cocktail at your next big bash), Head Bartender Justin Taylor has an alternative for home mixologists: “In a process called staving, you place a sliver of an oak barrel inside a liquor bottle to achieve the same effect in a much shorter time,” he says. Later this year at YEW, look for barrel-aged sangria and housemade liqueurs like nocino and falernum.
The Lobby Lounge at Four Seasons Hotel Austin is debuting a cocktail known as Way Down South. Mixologist and Head Bartender Travis Tober used a 10-gallon bourbon barrel to hold premium tequila, Drambuie, honey water, grapefruit bitters and Angostura bitters. “The smaller the barrel, the less you have to age it,” says Tober. “Also, if I’m doing a ‘boozier’ cocktail, then I’ll let it age a little longer to let the flavors mellow.” The Way Down South is on the bar menu, but don’t get greedy — guests are limited to two cocktails each.
A barrel-aged Manhattan is now on the menu at the Ty Lounge at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Crafted in a 15-litre charred oak barrel, it combines rye bourbon and sweet vermouth. “From everything I’ve read about other bartenders’ trials and errors, the six-week point seems to be the sweet spot for aging the majority of these cocktails,” notes Brad Escobar, supervisor at Ty Lounge.
Finally, Cielo Restaurant & Bar at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis has taken a wider view with barrel aging, crafting barrel-aged brandied cherries (served in a Manhattan) and barrel-aged housemade dehydrated honey and black tea bitters. Restaurant and bar manager Cory Cuff also invented a new drink, The Empire, a homage to his home state of New York, which is made with gin, dry vermouth, maraschino and Campari, barrel-aged for four weeks. “I wanted to barrel age because of the nuances oak brings to the drink,” says Cuff. Next up: an aviation-themed barrel-aged gin cocktail. -Bonnie Schiedel