Recently, one of my favorite drinking buddies
and bad bourbon guinea pigs were at Dish on Market testing out their expansive bourbon selection when something caught my eye: a small oak barrel sitting atop the end of the bar. The bartender on duty noticed me eyeballing his barrel.
Me: “Nice addition to the decor”
Bartender: “Yea its functional, too. You should get you one.”
Me: “What the hell would I do with that?”
Bartender: “What the hell wouldn’t you do with your own barrel?”
(Turns out he had been aging his own pre-made Manhattans in the barrel. He poured some over the rocks and handed it to me.)
Me: “…shut up and take my money.”
Before that night I had hardly considered what I could do with my own oak barrel. Afterwards, the sky was the limit. Barrel aged bitters? Oak barrel aged home beer brews? My own pre-made cocktails?
Yes. Yes. And Hell Yes.
On top of my ideas for cocktails, turns out one of my best friends is tying the knot, and mini oak barrels were named a one of the top 8 Groomsman gifts by Maxim and the # 1 Groomsmen Gift by AskMen.com.
I ordered 2.
After almost a week of hounding the mailman and tracking my shipment across the country like I tracked my NCAA bracket, my brand new, charred, white oak barrel was delivered to my doorstep. Alas, Christmas day was to be delayed for a few hours – before you can use your new barrel, it has to be “cured”. Curing the barrel seals
First, you must “cure” your barrel. Because the barrels are not made with any glue or nails, the wood relies on the moisture from the spirit to expand the wood and keep the wooden staves sealed tight to ensure there are no leaks. Here are the instructions that came with the barrel:
1) Fill the barrel with warm water (it might leak, that is okay)
2) Immediately empty the barrel
3) Let the barrel sit empty for 3-4 hours. This will allow the wood to swell and the joints to seal tight
4) Fill the barrel again with warm water. If it continues to leak, repeat this cycle 3-4 times until the barrel no longer leaks.
Once you have gone through the process a few times, your oak barrel is ready for glory! Here are a few recipes that I used to get the most out of my new baby!