How to Age Your Drink

A well-crafted cocktail or top-shelf dram is great as-is. But barrel aging makes them even better.

To join the trend we’re seeing at mixology joints across the country, you don’t need to own a distillery with full-size barrels (though we don't discourage it). All you need is the fool-proof kit from Aged and enough patience to make it through a week of aging.

The more time a cocktail or liquor has to get familiar with the oak stave, the more flavor will be imparted for a more complex drink that matures the flavors you already know and love.

There are two methods to the madness:

  1. Mix a cocktail, then age it.

  2. Age a liquor or spirit. Then, sip it neat, craft a cocktail with it, or both.

They’re both well worth trying, and develop totally unique flavors in the finished product. An aged negroni can be sublime, yet just as good (but in an entirely new way) if you only age the gin, then mix with that.

And sipping on an aged liquor is especially easy: just age and pour, ideally side-by-side an unaged pour to see and taste the mellowed, rounded flavor differences.

Aging a Pre-Mixed Cocktail

If you choose your go-to cocktail – one whose flavors you know like the back of your hand – you’ll be able to expertly pick out all of the subtle and sublime differences of the aged rendition. Once it's finished, try the aged version side-by-side a freshly mixed one to see how the flavors compare.

Just stay away from low-alcohol combos or anything with juice, dairy, or eggs. They either won’t age well, or will spoil.

Aging Booze by Itself

Flavorful white spirits like gin, blanco tequila, and pisco work especially well. Sip on it plain, or use it to mix a cocktail for a different spin on the above route (that way, you can also work with ingredients that wouldn’t hold up to aging themselves.)

Just keep in mind that brown spirits are (usually) already aged, so they’re not good candidates unless they’re in a cocktail with other aging-worthy components.

Once it’s ready, craft your cocktail or sip it neat.

The Process

Now, the important part: how to age your booze. The aging technique works for both of the above routes, but remember: it’s an art, not a science.

  1. Pour your alchemy into the aging kit with a single stave, store in a dark place, and wait.

  2. As the days pass, taste by drawing out a bit of liquid with a straw. What tastes woody and full of tannins on day one could be elegant two days later. We leave the final call to you, but it should be around 10 days for your first age, and a few more days for each subsequent use of the stave. Each one is good for 4 to 6 uses; just rinse them off in between aging sessions to avoid carrying over flavors.

  3. When you’ve decided the drink is done, strain the liquid with your cheesecloth, chill, and serve.

Tips & Tricks

  • Mix your drink in a mixing glass or pitcher, rather than pouring the ingredients right into the kit, so that you can get the proportions correct and properly incorporate the liquids. You can always make more than you need and drink the leftovers. About 12 ounces fit in the jar, so adjust your recipe's measurements accordingly.

  • Focus on "spirit-forward" cocktails: those made predominantly or exclusively with hard liquor and non-dairy liqueurs. Classic drinks like the negroni, the Manhattan and the martini are perfect first-time elixirs.

  • If you're aging a pre-mixed cocktail, avoid including fresh citrus juice, sour mixes, eggs or dairy (as in an Irish cream liqueur), since they can spoil and ruin both your drink and oak stave.

  • Bitter liqueurs and fortified wines are great mixers. Amaros (a sub-type of liqueur) like Campari and Averna smooth out and warm up elegantly. Vermouths and sherries oxidize nicely for a richer, deeper flavor.

  • Consider soaking your stave in something for an hour or two to add another flavor profile to the overall drink. Fernet branca, tonic syrup, even absinthe work well.

  • Store your concoction in a dark space, like a closet or cabinet.

And most important: Have fun. Experiment. What does aged vodka taste like? What if you throw in some of that weird bubble gum liqueur someone brought to the last party? Give it a shot.

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