Are you seeking a creative way to enhance the spirits collection at your home or add some innovation to your friends gathering or an in-house party? Barrel-aging your cocktails is one of the simplest ways to create sophisticated cocktails without putting much effort. You just need to buy a new or used barrel of 1 to 5 liters as per requirements and find an appropriate recipe. Smaller barrels (1-3 liters) work the best for barrel-aging when you need quicker aging of your spirit or cocktail with the fullest character and white oak flavor. You can buy used barrels from online retailers at affordable prices. The good thing is that you can barrel-age even a single cocktail. You can taste your cocktail once in a week to ensure that the quality is good enough to be served to your guests.
Though barrel-aging is quite simple, there are a few essential things that you must keep in mind while aging cocktails:
Know the Lifespan of your Barrel
Some barrels are lighter, some are denser, some are really bad and some are extremely good. You need to learn the weaknesses and strengths of barrels, make the batches based on wood quality and life of barrel and act accordingly.
Know your Wood
Every barrel is unique, you can identify by the woodgrain, which will be dense wood and you will get more batches from that. If the wood looks denser, than the wood quality would be great and will provide better aging. However, if it is porous wood, you may get 1 or 2 batches. The small barrels (5 liters) are good for a batch or two or maybe three. 10 liters and 20 liters provide two to three and three to four batches respectively.
Look for Any Leak
You need to be careful about any leakage, keeping an eye on your oak barrel is important. If a barrel has even a small leak, molasses can leak out and you are likely to lose fair amount of yield.
Seal the Barrel
Before you seal the deal, you need to take care of a few things. Soak the barrel in filtered for around a day and check for leaks, the barrel stains if it is leaking somewhere. Take organic unscented beeswax, place it in putty, roast it, which will block the holes. And if the leak is really big, then you may have to replace the barrel.
Have Something High-proof
Regardless of the spirit you are using, vodka, gin, moonshine,cognac or bourbon, you must stick to high-proof for ultimate success. If you are not using proof in the barrel, the soft spirits will soften, to a point where they get too sweet. Having 100 proof or higher is vital, else you will end up with very soft, sweet and not so enjoyable cocktail.
Save Bitters for After Aging
Remember that you do not have to add bitters in the barrel with cocktails. Bitters take over everything you age in the barrel and destroy it. Someone aged a cocktail with cardamom bitters for a few days and it tasted like oak and cardamon, no other flavor was there. Therefore, it is recommended to use bitters after aging.
Oxidation doesn’t Ruin your Cocktail
Oxidation is likely to occur even if your barrel has an airtight environment, but it won’t be in large amount unless your barrel is filled to the top. However, when you use things like Cocchi Americano, Salers or Vermouth that are not really fortified, still oxidation happens. Usually, oak is safe enough that it softens the cocktail to a point where there is no issue.
Do Not Store Barrels in Light
Barrels may look appealing on the backbar, but you would like to treat them better like any barrel house. It is good to store barrels in the absence of light. So, ensure that they are kept somewhere with no fluctuation in light, humidity and temperature as it will affect aging.
Use Sugar with Care
Ideally, liqueur should be your only sweetener. Honey, being too thick, sits and crystallizes. Maple syrup can be used, just ensure that anything you use is high-proof. Avoid using plain syrup in the barrel as it involves the risk of fermentation. Aging sugar is not much help and you wouldn’t want to place any perishable thing in your barrel.
Leave Unaged Cocktail for Tasting
While filling the barrel, ensure that you have almost half litre cocktail kept aside so that you can taste time to time and check how much cocktail has improved compared to the initial batch. If you are using a new oak barrel for aging, it is recommended to taste every week as it will hardly take 30 days on the first batch.
Keep Checking Time
With every batch, you need to double and even triple the time of aging. The first batch can take 15 to 35 days. Once you have pulled the first batch out, the barrel will be seasoned with that cocktail, so you need to double or triple it the next time. For the second batch, it may take 70 to 100 days and third batch may take up to a year. Once the cocktail is ready, pull it out of your barrel and keep it in a vacuum sealed bag to prevent oxidation.
Common Mistakes that People Do
The biggest mistake people do is reusing barrels again and again with the same aging period. If you are simply putting spirits in the barrel every 30 days, you are only oxidizing the cocktail or just resting the flavors in a controlled environment, but not barrel aging. The other thing that people do, which is a big no-no, is adding harsh things and bitters to the barrels when aging. Anything you add to the barrel must be high proof, else it will throw the cocktail off-balance.
Start making your own cocktails today and add creativity to your party. Rocky Mountain Barrel Company provide the best quality used barrels at affordable rates.