A lot of food trends are based around taking something that people already like, and making it better (think of the Cronut). That is sometimes easier said than done, and for every success there is a Mexican-Lebanese-fusion microbrew food truck that fails. In-house barrel-aging takes something everybody likes —cocktails — and makes them better, so it is easy to see why so many places in Jackson offer a creation of their own.
Barrel-aged cocktails didn’t start becoming popular last night. I first remember hearing about them and trying one a few years back. While they may not be new, they have taken off in popularity, rising to No. 3 on the beverage trends of 2016 as projected by the National Restaurant Association. (That’s right, these things are ranked, and I’m starting to think making lists of food trends might just be a trend itself). The wood casks associated with barrel aging impart their own flavor influenced by the type of wood used and what was stored in it previously. There are a couple reasons why it has taken a few years to truly blossom, one being that aging takes time. And in most cases the longer you wait, the better it gets. Because of the time intense process, formulating the recipes that work well is much more of a tedious process. It seems like we have finally reached the sweet spot in the aging process with plenty of places around town finding some signature flavors with their in house barrel-aged drinks.
Cafe Genevieve was one of the first places around town to start dabbling in the barrel-aged scene. They currently offer a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring rye whiskey and bitters and topped with a brandied cherry. The cocktail is aged for six weeks in an American oak barrel, which creates a super smooth finish.
The Kitchen, known for their creative and fresh Asian flavors, has put together a true American classic. Their house oak barrel aged Brooklyn is a mix of Bulleit rye, Averna amaro, Luxardo, vermouth, and house-made clove bitters.
Looking for a refreshing take on a classic drink? The Mandarin Manhattan from The Indian is aged with Wyoming Whiskey, sweet vermouth and Cointreau and pairs perfectly with spicy Indian food after a cold day in the snow.
Snake River Brew Pub is putting their award winning beer into the barrel aging mix. On the third Sunday of every month, the Brewpub will release one of their brews that has been barrel aged. Each month will feature a different beer and different aging process, whether that be in wine, whiskey or tequila barrels. Mark it on your calendar and stop in to experience what barrel aging can do to your favorite carbonated beverage as well. Yesterday was the first iteration of the series, featuring a barrel aged version of their Le Serpent.
The Spur has a full blown specialty cocktail menu dedicated to barrel aged goodness. In addition to their Brooklyn and popular Makers Mark Old Fashioned, they have gin and a vodka based concoctions as well. The Martinexz is a mix of sweet vermouth, Ranson gin, Luxardo, and house orange bitters. Their Gypsy Queen blends Ketel One vodka, Benedictine and Angostura bitters for a smooth refreshing beverage.
The Rendezvous Bistro has a perfect winter warmer that is great for a before, or after dinner drink. The barrel-aged Red Hook is crafted from Wyoming Whiskey, Luxardo, and sweet vermouth, served up.
The Handle Bar has three barrel-aged options waiting for you when your done on the slopes. The Manhattan and Old Fashioned are favorites, but Outlaw offers something a little different. Aged with bourbon, bitters, and a little Fernet, this belly warmer is served neat and sure to satisfy.
Next time you are pursuing a cocktail menu take notice of the aged options. The smooth flavors of some classic beverages are a perfect way to spend a winter evening.