Thursday, March 7, 2013

Aged Booze for an Ageless Friend

If you know me, you know that one of my very favorite things in the whole world is cahoots. Specifically birthday cahoots, though to be fair, I'll take any form of cahoots in a pinch. 

And today we're throwing a virtual birthday party for the one and only Jeanne from Inside NanaBread's Head and we've been cahooting about this for a few weeks now. And not just about today's virtual party... Stay tuned for more details on Saturday. But here for the party...

Of course I added a mustache.
Jeanne has been an incredible influence on my blogging. Her huge Texas heart, sense of humor, delicious food, and wonderful care boxes have inspired me to blog better and to care more. All online (through the Twitterverse, email, and blogging), we have come to know little bits about each other by sharing whiney days, terrible puns, virtual drinks, and even the frequent good day. And even though she turns the big 5-0 today, she'll always be young at heart!

Manhattan Makin'
Let's be honest - what's a blowout half-century birthday party without some drinks? In honor of a classy lady, I aged a classic cocktail. With age comes wisdom, refinement, and class. All of which describes Jeanne, and I hope that this drink represents her just a little bit. It's in a small batch: wisdom not to over-do it. During the aging, the flavors marry together increase complexity; just like a lady. Aging can sometimes be fickle. Just like a lady (though not necessarily Jeanne...). And each batch comes out just a little different - making each cocktail a unique flower. The small batch, smokey flavor of this cocktail will impress your guests (or just you). I'm hooked on aging cocktails. They speak to me. As a lady.

I first read about this method in Food & Wine magazine this fall, and I've been just itching to try it! I did have to buy some supplies, but luckily the Tuthilltown Distillery sells small batch aging kits so I didn't need to splurge on a large cask. The bottle shown about holds about 1.5 cups (3-4 generous drinks) and comes with one aging honeycomb to submerge. For less than the cost of a cocktail shaker, you can barrel-age at home! After doing some research, it turns out that aged cocktails are all the hipster-rage right now. Bartenders are aging everything. And it's so easy! Aged cocktails are the crockpots of the bar. Just set it, and forget it! For my first run, I tried something simple and classic - an aged manhattan. 

This was just the first in a long line of aged experiments - I'll be sure to share more as I test them. Once you've had your fill of old drinks here, keep the party going checking out these other old broads: Kirsten's Orange Cream Pie, Allison's Coca Cola Cake, Megan's Nutella Turnovers, Madelyn's Cheesey Chorizo Dip, Anne's Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream Cones, Monica's Tropical Ice Cream, Katie's Chocolate Cake with Cooked Flour Frosting, Lauren's Mini Key Lime Pies with an Animal Cracker Crust, Madeline's Fig, Fontina and Pecan Flatbread, Kat's Guacamole, and Carrie's Coconut Banana Brownie Pie.

A target I can hit.
A couple of tips in case you do try this:

  • Fresh fruit or rind will probably go rancid before the cocktail finishes aging. These additions are best saved until serving.
  • Vodka is not a great choice. Because it takes on so much flavor of the ingredients around it, it ages much quicker than other brown liquors. I'd recommend staying with darker liquors until you get a hang of it.
  • Test the cocktail. Darn. I mean, what a terrible rule, right? But like any dish, there is an aging-sweet-spot. The label said to age for about 2 weeks. I tried mine at Days 7, 9, and 11 - and found that it was perfect to my taste at Day 11. My second batch of the same cocktail went for 16 days to get the same effect. You only need a few drops to taste - don't want to taste the whole batch away before it's ready! 
  • The recipe below is technically for a Perfect Manhattan - for a traditional manhattan (which I found too sweet), use 1/2 cup sweet vermouth
Macro phone lens on the lip of the cocktail kit.
Recipe! Aged Manhattan
Adapted from the recipe suggestion from Tuthilltown Spirits that came with the cocktail kit.

1 cup Whiskey (I chose Irish Whiskey)
1/4 cup Sweet Vermouth
1/4 cup Dry Vermouth
dash of bitters
For serving (optional): Maraschino Cherry

In a large measuring cup (or bowl with a spout) combine the whiskey and vermouth. Add a dash of bitters (just a few drops). Gently mix together with a spoon. Pour into your aging vehicle and add the aging insert. Cork. Place on the counter and forget for 10-20 days (depending on preference)

To serve: Pour 3 or 4 ounces of the cocktail into a highball glass. Garnish with cherry. Enjoy slowly. Stay classy, Internet.

Macro phone lens on the cocktail kit cork.

More fun with macro phone lens on the aging insert.


  1. I just died. That mustache is too funny.

  2. Beka...what a really cool drink. I've got to try that whole aging thing...(in a cocktail, that is!). Today, in honor of Jeanne...make mine a double, please! So happy for Jeanne today and glad to be participating in this fabulous party!

  3. I want those mustache glasses. And this looks really fun - I am not a whiskey girl (yes, wuss, it's OK - I know it), but Husband might realllllly get into this! Cheers! Prost! Slante!

  4. Who knew a mustache would be the perfect cocktail enhancer? I just love everything about this post, Beka. The 'aged' hooch for a 50th birthday (the humor is not lost on me), the jokes peppered throughout, and the lesson on aging cocktails. I made homemade Kahlua a few years back, but that's the extent of my cocktail chemistry. I'm ready to venture out with this one now. Thanks for the tutorial, but even more wholeheartedly - thank you for your friendship and support. It means the world to me. I am officially declaring this the best 50th EVER! Hugs - jeanne

  5. Cahoots are the best! The mustache totally makes the cocktail. Also loving how you tagged your cocktail as "vegetarian."

  6. Of course you would rock the Manhattan. We all know that I'm a beer girl, but if I'm ordering a cocktail, this is what it is going to be!

    I think I need more info on this DIY barrel-aging thing (seriously) because that looks wonderous. It could be a life-changer for Marcus. And now, I'm thinking it could be part of his 30 birthday gift.


    p.s. The photography here was PHENOMENAL!!!