Barrel aging can transform a cocktail from its typical flavor to a smoother, richer, and more cohesive final product. As the cocktail mixture sits in the barrel, it develops much like a bourbon does as it barrel ages. While cocktails typically spend much less time in barrels than the spirits they're made with, the month or two that they're generally aged at makes all of the difference. Whiskey, gin, or rum, there are several bars around town barrel-aging cocktails to suit every taste.
See Also: 5 Best Gin Cocktails in Metro Phoenix
Sea Salt Negroni at Citizen Public House Citizen's sea salt Negroni ($12) was conceptualized by the idea of importing liquor back in the days when shipping meant literally sending via ships. As barrels of booze sat in the hull of a ship, they would get splashed with salty sea water, dry out, get splashed again, and on and on. Citizen bartenders do this to barrels full of their recipe Negroni as the cocktail ages from four to six weeks. The resulting cocktail has the herbal, bitter elements of a Negroni with a light salinated taste at the end that's unlike any other cocktail in town.
Manhattan at Hanny's As far as the classics are concerned, Hanny's has developed one of the most iconic cocktails into an even richer version of itself with a barrel-aged Manhattan. The process begins with the recipe for their Maker's Manhattan, which uses Maker's Mark, Cinzano Rosso, and Angostura bitters. That mixture is then aged for 90 days. The final product ($11) is served up in a martini glass with a maraschino cherry and benefits from a smoothed out overall flavor.
Copper District at District American Kitchen and Wine Bar Never did we ever think that we'd find a cocktail that tastes exactly like vanilla pudding, but here it is. Matt Tobey's Copper District ($11) ages Copper City Bourbon with elderflower liqueur and housemade brandied Bing cherry syrup in new white American oak barrels for two weeks. The sweet, smooth, and, yes, vanilla-y drink is then kicked up with blood orange bitters and poured over Angostura ice cubes. To finish, the drink is then garnished with a lemon peel and brandied cherry. This cocktail is as close as you'll ever get to drinking your dessert without going full-blown obvious like an adult milkshake.
Sailor's Song at Virtu Honest Craft For a complex and spicy barrel-aged cocktail, look no further than Virtu's Sailor's Song ($12). The rum-based drink ages for eight weeks with nutty Velvet Falernum and Angostura orange in new oak barrels. Before serving, the glass gets a Hum rinse to add an extra exotic spice and floral element to the already spiced, smooth, and caramely cocktail. Sure, there's a lot going on with the Sailor's Song, but each sip is like a new experience that you just have to try for yourself.
Rotating Special at Barrelhouse American Kitchen & Cocktails Since Barrelhouse opened, they've dedicated cocktail menu real estate to $12 barrel-aged cocktails, which rotate out to try new combinations. One of the most unique Barrelhouse concoctions aged to date was a combination of aquavit, cognac, and Guatemalen coffee beans. Currently you can get a Bijoux out of the barrels with gin, sweet vermouth, and green chartreuse, each representing gems in the jewel-named classic cocktail. The combination has been barrel-aged for three months in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, but the crew is already working on two other barrel-aged concoctions for the future.
Honorable Mention: Fer-groni at The Local
Although The Local has only been open a couple days, we were wowed last weekend by their barrel-aged Fer-groni, a take on the Negroni that replaces gin with Fernet Branca. The Fer-groni to date is only barrel aged a little over a week as of now, but we can't wait to see what this strongly herbal drink develops into with some more aging time.