Barrel-aging is a practice that is typically reserved for makers of bourbons and wines. But many bars across North America are catching onto the concept, with many of them introducing barrel-aged cocktails to their menus.
How Does Barrel-Aging Work?
A bartender will mix up several gallons of any given cocktail, called ‘batching’ – such as a Manhattan or Negroni – where it will then be funneled into an oak barrel. The barrels are either scored from the aforementioned distilleries or wineries, or they can be purchased new online.
As the barrel breathes, the wood and air, along with changes in temperature and humidity change the drink at the fundamental level. The alcohol is absorbed and expelled from the wood, extracting tannins, color and individual flavors. This gives the drink a more elaborate makeup.

What is the Overall Effect?
Aging cocktails in barrels softens harsh edges, makes the drink richer, and can add new layers of flavor. For example, depending on the type of barrel you use, it’s not uncommon to come away with oaky flavors of vanilla or caramel.
How Long Does the Process Take?
Some bartenders prefer to store their barrels in a dark corner for a matter of weeks and some go months. Really, it just depends on the bartender’s personal preference.
Fortunately, you don’t have to find a bar that serves barrel-aged cocktails. You can make them all by yourself. Here are some useful tips for making your own barrel-aged creations from the comfort of home.
Score and Prepare the Barrels: You can find 3 and 5-liter DIY aging barrels at online locations such as Bespoke Post,, and When they arrive, soak them in water for a few hours and seal them up. Now you’re ready to batch and pour.
Batch Cocktails in Advance: You’ll want to batch all your cocktails in advance so that you can accurately measure proportions.
Avoid Mixers That Can Spoil: As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid mixing ingredients in your cocktails that can go bad, such as eggs, dairy, and citrus. You can always add these later after the aging process has been completed.
Store Your Barrels: Once you’ve poured your mixed drink into the barrels, seal them up and store them in a dark corner for weeks or months, however long you have the patience for.
Taste Frequently for Preference: You’ll notice that days can make a difference. You may find that your drink tastes woody one day but tastes perfect the next. This is largely a trial and error period that you’ll get used to over time.
Prepare and Drink or Store for Later: When you feel that your barrel-aged cocktail is ready, filter the liquid through a cheesecloth and into a pitcher or glass jar. This will stop the aging process, allowing you to keep the drink how you like it indefinitely.
Experiment with Different Cocktails: While the Manhattan and Negroni are common standbys, some bartenders have their own takes on this process. Dave Kupchinsky at The Eveleigh likes to barrel-age vodka and Redbull with green Chartreuse in a sherry-cured barrel, for instance. Meanwhile, Dan Carr at The Fat Ham prefers a drink called Stars Fell on Alabama – an “Alabaman take on the Sazerac. Instead of brandy or rye, he uses a sweeter, more corn-heavy bourbon in addition to orange flower water.
Experiment with your favorite drinks and get creative. You never know what barrel-aged greatness can come of it.