In the cocktail world barrel aged cocktails have been a topic of discussion since Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common in Portland's blog post in April of 2010 describing his efforts and experiments with barrel aging cocktails. Although he did not invent the concept, he is the indisputably the person in the mixology world who has been most responsible for popularizing barrel aged cocktails. The Tasting Kitchen is one of the top cocktail destinations in Los Angeles and they recently added two barrel aged cocktails to the menu. Their bar manager Justin Pike came to Los Angeles from Portland where he worked at Clyde Common, so dots are rather close to connect in this instance as they worked together for eight months.
The two barrel aged cocktails currently on the menu are King of the Dudes and a Negroni. The King of the Dudes (above) is made with rye and mamajuana. Mamajuana is made with a mixture of herbs and barks which are then bathed in red wine. The red wine absorbs some of the harsher characteristics of the bark. After several weeks in the bottle, the red wine is drained out of the mamajuana and Smith & Cross rum and honey are added to the mixture. Once the ingredients have imparted their flavors to the alcohol (approximately two weeks) the beverage is removed from the bottle and the herbs and barks are left to flavor the next set of booze. Next for the barrel process Wild Turkey 101 and Punt y Mes are combined with the mamajuana in a barrel and aged for six weeks. The resulting combination of rye and mamajuana is an assertive boozy cocktail that lovers of Manhattans and Brooklyns will likely enjoy. There is a lot going on in this drink. The inspiration for the name of this cocktail came from a passage in Dave Wondrich's book Imbibe! about late nineteenth century "King of the Dudes" Evander Berry Wall.
The barrel aged Negroni (above) is made with Campari, Beefeater gin and Camparo Antica sweet vermouth. The aged Negroni is a lot mellower than a "fresh" one and some of the bitter edges have been worn smooth by six weeks it has spent in the cask. Pike described the process as removing the "high alcohol juniper notes and adding in vanilla notes." I recommend getting a fresh one and an aged one side by side so you can experience the changes that aging imparts this classic cocktail. Tasting Kitchen Chef Casey Lane stated "barrel aging a Negroni makes it a cocktail."
Next on the agenda for Pike is creating liqueurs and amari and barrel aging them. In Los Angeles, barrel aged cocktails are also available at La Descarga. In San Francisco, Joel Teitelbaum at Zero Zero is launching barrel aged Negronis tonight. I look forward to trying more barrel aged cocktails as bartenders experiment and see what tastes good. Get to The Tasting Kitchen and see for yourself.
The Tasting Kitchen: 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd (Venice). Phone: (310) 392-6644. Website: www.thetastingkitchen.com