An Experiment in Making Barrel-Aged Cocktails at Home (Without a Barrel)

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If you follow cocktail trends or simply like to hang out at trendy bars run by mixologists in suspenders, you have probably noticed that barrel-aged cocktails have taken the drinks world by storm.

But is it possible to try these at home? Especially if you don't want to buy an entire barrel to age your cocktails? Chris from Man Made DIY decided to find out, and he invited me and my husband to the final taste test!

But first — what the heck is a barrel-aged cocktail? A barrel-aged cocktail is simply one that has been pre-mixed then left to accumulate flavor in a barrel previously used for spirits or wine — like a bourbon barrel or a sherry cask. It's an interesting idea, and it produces a lot of nuances in otherwise straightforward classics. It's a technique most frequently used in relatively simple mixed drinks, like the three-ingredient Negroni, or the classic Old Fashioned.

My friend Chris is something of a cocktail mad scientist — always trying new things. (Last time he was at our house he made smoked cocktails. Sooo tasty.)

This time around, his grand experiment was barrel-aged Negronis. He discovered that you don't need a barrel to do this; you can simply steep wood chips of various sorts in the cocktail mix. So he set up four different sorts of "barrel simulators" with products ranging from a charcoal stick designed for this precise purpose to wood chips harvested from old Jack Daniels barrels.

He aged them for over a month, then poured them out for a blind taste test with us.

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How did they all taste? Well, you'll have to visit Man Made DIY to see the full results of the experiment, but the main takeaway was that yes —you can make substantially delicious barrel-aged cocktails at home while spending only a few dollars on the materials.

Have you ever tried this before? What did you use to "age" your cocktails?

(Images: Chris Gardner/Man Made DIY)