Now we all like a good vintage, from wine to clothing the word vintage adds an air of respectability to something that can otherwise be described as plain old. I have found however that this doesn’t apply to the growing pile of used socks that are gestating in my laundry pile.
But what about cocktails I hear you cry! Well, you would be right to do so, bottle and case aged cocktails are very on trend now, but it seems the practise goes back a little further than that.
The word cocktails elbows its way into our vocabulary in the early 1800’s. Common practise then was to have casks of cocktails ready-made, which were subsequently transferred into glass bottles for serving. Indeed, legendary father of flare bartending and cocktails Jerry Thomas has several of his own recipes for bottling cocktails that he offered as “take-away” (now that has to beat a pizza), but is this just a convenient way to make a large batch of cocktails for a party or does the advantage go deeper?
Aging in glass bottles isn’t going to obtain the same results than the aging of your favourite whisky in sherry casks would achieve. The aim isn’t to imbue a new flavour but to mature the flavours that are already present. Overtime the concoction oxidises in the bottle and in theory all those delicate little cocktail molecules become much more finely blended, giving us a smoother and more refined taste.
Now I’m not one for theory, I am a gentleman of action! So I thought I would conduct my own little experiment into bottle aging. I have chosen two cocktails to start with, the Manhattan and the Negroni. Why have I chosen these? Well I had the ingredients and they are easy to make. Be sure to mix and shake your cocktails well, and when you fill the bottle leave at least 2cms of air at the top.
Unfortunately, time waits for no man, but it does wait for a good cocktail. When it comes to the question of time in the bottle, the period can go from weeks to years.
This being so I have divided my Manhattan into three batches to age in degrees of 4 weeks, 3 months and lastly 6 months. As for the Negroni, I will age it for just 6 weeks.
I wax-sealed the bottles, a rather messy job, and now the bottles must be kept out of sunlight and at a constant temperature, so in the under-stairs cupboard they go.
I previously mentioned ingredients so I should probably point out that perishables such as fruit and creams should be left out of the mix, and for bottle aging keep your cocktails boozy; the stronger the spirit the better the results will be.
For my Manhattan I mixed :
- 650ml Buffalo Trace bourbon
- 50ml of a special cask strength Whisky I have from the Scottish Single Malt Society (only to top up the bourbon I didn't have enough of, so just bourbon will do too)
- 350ml of Martini Russo vermouth
- 1ml of Angostura bitter
This gave me enough to fill a 1-litre bottle (leaving a few centimetres of air at the top for oxidization) and some left over to drink that evening – well I have to compare the cocktail before and after to be truly scientific, don’t I…
For the Negroni I used:-
- 300ml Greenall’s Gin
- 300ml Campari
- 300ml Noilly Prat dry vermouth
So wish me luck, and I will see you back here in a month for the tasty of phase 1 of my Manhattan...