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Barrel-Aged Cocktails Premiere Tonight at Quiessence

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​Distillers of whiskey and other spirits have known for centuries that aging a drink in oak barrels does wonders for its flavor, smoothing out rough edges while adding layers of complexity to both aroma and taste. Bartenders and cocktail artisans across the country are now catching on and letting their pre-mixed drinks sit in barrels for months at a time to take their creations to a whole new level.

"It started in London -- a guy was aging cocktails in glass bottles with wooden staves," says Quiessence bar consultant Bill DeGroot. "A guy from Portland saw it and decided to put a Manhattan into an oak barrel and got great results."

Tonight at its monthly social hour (5:30-6:30 p.m.), Quiessence will premiere Arizona's first barrel-aged cocktail: a classic Manhattan, aged for 90 days in a 20-liter oak barrel.

How does the barrel-aging affect the taste? "The vermouth will oxidize a little, the rye should mellow, and it'll take on a little of that woody, smoky flavor," DeGroot says. "It should be perfect for this time of year."

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