Barrel Aged Cocktails

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Barrel Aged Cocktails – how toSince lots of folks have been asking, we decided to do a post about barrel aging cocktails! We did a lot of videos in barrel aging like our DIY Christmas Gifts Part 1 and Part 2, but we didn’t really focus on the concepts of this technique.

Just for kicks, we’re barrel-aging some Fernet Branca in this video!


How to Barrel Age Cocktails


Barrel Aging Concepts:

Flavor & Extraction:

Barrel Aging Cocktails

  • The higher the proof of the cocktail – the faster the extraction will be.
  • Barrel aging is a great way to “knock the sharp edges off the taste” and round out flavors.
  • Size of your barrel matters! The smaller the barrel – the faster the flavors will be incorporated.
  • Every time you use your barrel it decreases the amount of that “woody” flavor that is imparted – so you may need to adjust your timelines accordingly.


Before you Use your Barrel:

Getting a new barrel delivered is a beautiful thing.  But don’t let that aroma get the better of you!  Before you use your barrel, you must:

  • Rinse it out very thoroughly until the water runs clear.  The barrel may have small wood chips still in it from the production process, so it’s best to clean them out.
  • Fill the barrel with water (suggestion: in a sink) and let it sit 24 hours.  A dry barrel is not a water-tight barrel, and the water will soak in and expand the wood to make it watertight.  (The water will also drip everywhere – that’s why I recommend leaving it in a hotel pan or sink during this process.
  • Finally, (this is the voice of experience here), don’t forget to put the spigot in the barrel before you fill with your cocktail.  Not that anyone would ever do that… ahem.


Be Patient – and Prepared!

Remember that barrel aging takes an average of 5-7 weeks to have a final output. It won’t be very fun for your guests to wait that long.  Take the time to assess how much of your barrel-aged cocktail that your bar or restaurant will get through, and if necessary, have several different barrels to cycle through, so each barrel will be at a different point in the barrel-aging process.  This will ensure a steady stream of barrel-aged deliciousness.

When the aging process is complete, use right away or transfer to glass containers to halt the aging process.


Where I get my Barrels:

I buy my barrels from Oak Barrels Limited, and they sent me this guide on how to properly care for your barrels.  If you’re looking at a Barrel program, definitely check out this guide first to ensure your barrels will last as long as possible.

One final note:  If your barrels will be visible to guests, spend the extra money and either get the barrels with the galvanized hoops or the brass hoops. When the black steel hoops get wet, they stain the barrels and it doesn’t look good.  (And let’s be  honest – it’s only a matter of time until they get wet.)


I hope this helps!

If you have any questions we’ve missed, definitely let us know in the comments!

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Filed Under: Techniques, Video Blog

About the Author:

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.

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  • Thiago

    This aged Fernet sound amazing.

    Did you aged 5L of Fernet or just put one bottle in the barrel?
    Here in Brazil some people have small barrels of cachaça and they don’t let it get dry, they say it will mess up the wood thus imparting less flavor.

    Might that be true?

    • Chris at A Bar Above

      Great question Thiago,

      I haven’t noticed any problems with the barrels that I have been using. I’ve unfortunately had the barrels run dry a few times, but never noticed much of a flavor difference after I resealed the barrels. Each time you add spirits to the barrel, it will diminish the amount of flavor that the barrel contributes, so this does occur naturally over time.

      I know that in Brazil, oak is not always the wood of choice when aging spirits. There may be a difference in the way the wood responds to this treatment as well.

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