This Friday at Vault & Vator, award winning mixologist Kirk Ingram will debut two new limited edition aged cocktails: An aged Negroni and an aged Manhattan.
The basic body of each cocktail may seem familiar—equal parts Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Campari and Beefeater gin for the Negroni, and two parts Rittenhouse rye, one part Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters for the Manhattan.
But the over the top lavishness of the cocktail aging process sets these drinks apart. In the same way barrel aging a harsh, burning raw distillate can turn the liquid into the smooth delicious bourbon America loves, barrel aging a batch of a cocktail can have a similar transformation.
Rather than relying on a barrel, Kirk used staves made from unused barrel wood supplied by a local company, Beyond Barrels. According to Kirk, "With proper staves, it’s about control. You can control every single variable that affects the outcome of the aging process. At the same time, if you don't know what you are doing, there is more you can mess up."
Both cocktails were aged at least in part with three different woods: French oak, American white oak and cherry. After aging batches with various char levels for at least one month, Kirk blended his master ratio from the original bottles before setting aside the drinks for an additional six months of aging on lightly toasted French Oak staves. This blending was a very similar process to what master distillers go through to create a small batch blend of bourbon.
Kirk continued, "The quality of the wood is off the charts compared to anything else I’ve found." Kirk is referring to a little known fact that barrels meant for aging drinks are made from wood that has itself been aged.
Every major bourbon producer uses wood that was open-air seasoned/naturally weathered for a minimum of six months. They literally cut a tree into boards, stack them up outside and let nature take its course. Some, like Makers Mark, go up to a year. A few limited-edition bourbons use two-year weathered wood, and the top wine producers in the world use wood weathered for two years and up. The American white oak Kirk is using to age his cocktails was weathered for three years, and the French oak was weathered for five years.
In addition, most cocktails are aged for a month max, and the same barrel is re-used well past its usefulness. "I only age cocktails with first-use wood,” Kirk explained, “so I get a better quality and a more consistent end result."
Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur or a novice, sample Vault & Vator’s aged Manhattan or aged Negroni for a revelation to your taste buds. Plus, you can ask Kirk about his barrel-aged, high-end wines.
But don't wait too long, Kirk warns. "Since these took six months to age, it’s not exactly something we can keep on rotation. Once it's gone, it’s gone... until the next one is ready."