Booze You Can Use

Why Do Barrel-Aged Cocktails Always Seem to Be the Same Three Drinks?

Barrel-Aged Martinez at the Farmers' Cabinet
Barrel-Aged Martinez at the Farmers’ Cabinet Photo: Collin Keefe

Right now barrel-aged cocktails are cooler than anything that Top Chef-testant Richard Blais could pull from a foggy vat of liquid nitrogen to squeak by in an elimination challenge. And we know this because there’s, like, bars everywhere from San Francisco to Boston where mixologists are repurposing oak barrels for resting booze for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. In Philly, Pub & Kitchen popped our barrel-aged cherry with an oak-aged Manhattan last fall. And now Farmer’s Cabinet is ponying up its version of a barrel-aged Martinez, a combination of gin and sweet vermouth, with a bit of maraschino liqueur and aromatic bitters that have been aged for 30 days inside a bourbon barrel from New York’s Tuthilltown Distillery (of course). It’s a tasty-enough concoction that’s poured perfectly by bartendrix extraordinaire, Phoebe Esmon.

But what we can’t seem to wrap our booze-soaked brains around is why every time someone starts talking about barrel-aged beverages, it’s almost always the same three cocktails — Manhattan, Martinez or Negroni. While we fully appreciate our bartenders pushing the limits and going beyond what’s spelled out in Mr. Bostons, they could learn a thing or two from San Francisco’s Blackbird, whose Bonnie & Clyde — High West Silver Whiskey, J. Witty chamomile liqueur, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Bar Code Baked Apple bitters — is completely original.

Earlier: Barrel-Aged Cocktails: These Are A Thing Now

Why Do Barrel-Aged Cocktails Always Seem to Be the Same Three Drinks?