Good cocktails are relatively easy to find at our favorite going out places. I can even make a decent drink at home as well—most of the time.
But great cocktails? Most local bartenders don’t usually have the time and I really can’t risk anything fancy at home, especially when serving guests. So, on rare occasions I venture out to watering holes renowned for their cocktail programs. Specialty ingredients and innovative methods, these cocktails are a treat, and I am happy to pay $18 or so for the pleasure.
Then my old pal Matt Ellenthal introduced me to Barrelsmith. He didn’t invent the idea of barrel aging cocktails, but indeed perfected it. These cocktails start by using only the finest ingredients. Barrelsmith sources base spirits from award winning distilleries but blends its own Rosso vermouth, liqueur and bitters. The final cocktails are then aged in oak barrels to harmonize the flavors, tamp down some of the bite and pick up complexity from the wood. Amazing!
I started with the Barrelsmith Negroni as I am a big fan of gin cocktails, especially in the summer months. I don’t know how he does it, but this Negroni is the best I have had. It doesn’t bite like some Negronis that have a bit too much Campari and the barrel aging adds some richness and softens it a bit. It is a delicious adult beverage enjoyed many evenings this summer.
However, I do have a fondness for the Barrelsmith Manhattan. And the Barrelsmith Boulevardier (made with Straight Bourbon Whiskey as the base spirit) was a huge hit with our hosts in Maine this past weekend. It had the warmth along with a subtle sweetness required for a cool Down East evening.
The best part of course is that all you need to do is open the bottle and pour a perfectly crafted cocktail into a handsome rocks glass.
To finish off the presentation I like to use the big block ice cubes. It makes for a good looking cocktail. I also bought some fancy bourbon cherries from the Jack Rudy Cocktail Company for garnishing the Manhattan and those really are worth the price of admission. For the Negroni and Boulevardier, I add a twist or a coin of orange peel or sometimes a whole slice. Or, honestly, you know me, most of the time I don’t bother with any garnish; just pour it out the bottle into a glass with ice and sip.
You’re going to love this Negroni!
P.S. If you really fall in love with The Negroni you should get Matt Hranek’s new book The Negroni: a love affair with a classic cocktail. It is available at www.thewilliambrownproject.com