Some cool new beverages have hit the market recently, and made us think of an old-school technique in a new, hipster light: the barrel. Aside from whiskey, “aging barrels” can be used for everything from wine and beer to maple syrup and hot sauce. When liquor ages in a barrel, it takes on compounds in the barrel like wood tannins and vanillin, which is used to make vanilla flavoring. Using barrels that previously housed whiskey or bourbon also lend some of that residual flavor to the finished product, whether it’s coffee or a cocktail. Interested? Here, five drinks to try.
Gun Hill Kentucky Common Sour Beer
This barrel-aged sour beer will definitely make you pucker up. This brew is aged in a Long Island Spirits bourbon barrels, and is Gun Hill Brewery’s “rendition of an indigenous American style.” It has a rich brown-red color and rich malt flavors of whiskey, laced with vanilla and honey. Beers are best aged in barrels that were used previously for wines or spirits, and extensive barrel aging is necessary for sour beers like this one.
Robert Mondavi Private Selection Bourbon Barrel Aged Chardonnay
This all-American chardonnay blends California winemaking with Southern-style bourbon whiskey aging. This wine is aged in American oak barrels and Kentucky bourbon barrels to develop a truly complex flavor that’s both fruity and smoky. Many wines are fermented in neutral containers, like steel or polyethylene, but French and American oak barrels are also commonly used. Bulk winemakers sometimes cut corners and soak oak chips in the wine instead of actually aging them in a barrel.
Starbucks Reserve Whiskey Barrel Aged Sulawesi
Looking for something non-alcoholic? (Don’t worry, we’re not judging you.) America’s favorite coffee chain recently rolled out a whiskey barrel aged coffee, made from beans that are aged in “freshly empties” oak barrels from a Washington distillery. Barrel aging coffee isn’t a new technique, but Starbucks got a lot of attention when they released their new brew. The coffee picks up a warm, earthy flavor from the wooden barrels, which previously housed whiskey.
Chinaco Negro Extra Anejo
If you’re a fan of smoky mezcal, give barrel-aged tequila a try. This extra anejo is aged in small batches for up to six years, but Chinaco also offers a regular (and cheaper!) anejo that’s aged in used bourbon barrels for 30 months. The tequila picks up a sweet and complex flavor with notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, and smoke that make taking a shot of the stuff a whole lot easier.
Yep – you can age a big-batch cocktail in a barrel. After just three or four weeks, the liquor picks up notes of smoke from the wood, resulting in a Negroni that’s extra smooth, lighter in color, and ready to serve. Once it’s finished aging, strain it through a coffee filter for a cocktail that’s mellow, smoky, and easy to serve to a crowd.