The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2016

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Page 38 of 124

38  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2016 T here are those who have recently criticized the validity of barrel-aged cocktails, going as far as to call them a gimmick. While these detractors may have some reasonably valid argu- ments, I believe that barrel aging, when done well, is a flexible technique that can extend the range of cocktail crafters. It is a process that I very much enjoy and believe in. As with the rest of cocktail culture, there is a method and science behind aging cocktails prop- erly. It is a process that involves some patience, forethought and risk. At its core, barrel aging is a form of infusion, with oak being the flavor being infused. Placing a cocktail in a barrel is essentially the same process used by a spirit-maker when aging a spirit. As a result, similar rules apply: The interaction between alcohol and barrel doesn't change whether it is whiskey fresh from the still or a Manhattan. What goes into the barrel is important. Whiskey off the still is high proof, a bit harsh and very different from the final product. Barrel-aged cocktails follow the same rules. The pre-aged cocktail should be high proof, a bit out of balance and be expected to mellow out. Cocktails destined for a barrel should be crafted with that in mind. Running a barrel program is somewhat like being a parent. You try to create a strong base and hope that with time, your cocktail will mature into something great. It can be predictable to a point, but each barrel is unique. Barrel aging, when done properly, is more than a gimmick. It is method of crafting and infusion that adds a very particular flavor and dynamic to cocktails that undergo the process. Barrel aging creates a truly unique cocktail with a methodology and style that I feel is here to stay. Introducing our newest column, "In Defense of . . .," where industry tastemakers stand up to demand respect for some of their favorite bartending, chefing and somm-ing practices and trends. Whether you think natural wines are all the rage or believe that mezcals make a mean Old Fashioned, we want to hear what trends you're passionate about. Want to contribute a column? Email Emily Coleman at In Defense of… In Defense of… Barrel-Aged Cocktails by Blaine Adams, Bar Manager, Barrel & Ashes, Studio City, CA Blaine Adams is the Bar Manager at Barrel & Ashes in Studio City, CA, where he believes barrel-aged cocktails offer a "flexible tech- nique that can extend the range of cocktail crafters." The Very Important Pig cocktail was a two-year long process for Adams and his team. He made a Sherry-finished cask and aged Whistle Pig, China- China and Zucca in it for one year.

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