Some time ago, in the wee hours of the morn, Tom and I sat in the kitchen at The Passage, sipping a late 1980’s Tullibardine and discussed collaborating on a TVG style cocktail with owners Ed and Andy.
Months later Ed acquired a 5 litre barrel from Tuthilltown Sprits, home of the Hudson Whiskey Distillery and suddenly the cocktail became less of an idea and more of a reality. Ed envisaged using the handcrafted American White Oak barrel to age a particular concoction, altering the drink’s character and flavour, mellowing the mix, much the same way as wines and spirits are aged.
After an evening of deliberation we decided that our medium toasted barrel might impart some interesting flavours on a Manhattan (or a variation of). The Manhattan cocktail is a classic drink combining whiskey, vermouth and bitters, made famous by Winston Churchill’s mum. Knowing that barrel ageing wasn’t going to make a rubbish cocktail good, we set about selecting the best ingredients available. With the heritage of our barrel in mind we opted for Hudson Manhattan Rye as our whiskey component, which is fruity, floral and smooth, with that trademark spiciness you find in all great rye whiskeys.
For the vermouth we used a Vergano Americano, a small batch vermouth from Piedmont. It’s made from the grape varietal Grignolino – a wine with an intense, dry fragrance that has the right body and isn’t particularly tannic. It’s truly an incredible vermouth, well worth seeking out if you’re into vermouth based cocktails, particularly Manhattans and Negronis!
The Hudson rye, Vergano Americano vermouth and orange bitters were combined and poured into the barrel and left to sit for 100 days. Originally we thought we’d try bottling 30, 60 and 90 day variations so we could serve them in a line, hopefully picking up the subtle differences between the three. Unfortunately at 30 days the cocktail hadn’t taken as much shape in the barrel as we’d hoped so we decided to ditch the variations and leave the entire batch to age for 100 days.
At 100 days we removed the mixture from the barrel to stop the ageing process and stored it in glass bottles which we tucked behind the bar, ready to join the cocktail list. To serve Ed and the team at the Passage stir the cocktail over ice in a mixing glass and then strain into a martini glass, garnishing it with a classic brandied cherry. And the result? A seriously smooth and sessionable Manhattan. Just kick back and enjoy.
The 100 Day Barrel Aged Manhattan is available now at The Passage, 231A Victoria St Darlinghurst.