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How to Mix Barrel-Aged Cocktails for Your Reception

It’s one thing to have bartenders mix up a signature cocktail at your wedding. But brides like Allison Winningstad are going even more personal with the latest trend in spirits: barrel-aged cocktails, made popular locally by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the bar manager at Portland’s hip Clyde Common. The drink is mixed and the entire blend then aged in a small barrel for six to eight weeks, which brings out the aromas from the wood. “It mellows out the cocktail and makes it a little smoother,” explains Allison, who was such a fan of Morgenthaler’s barrel-aged negronis that she served them at her July 30, 2011, wedding on the rooftop at the Hotel deLuxe. “We really love cocktails but didn’t want to shell out for a full bar, so this was a special addition to the menu.” It’s a great project for couples to bond over before the wedding; one barrel makes approximately 160 2-ounce pours, so adjust your timing in case you need to make more than one batch. The drinks can be stored in glass bottles after aging, so mix ’em up as early as you like. 

Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Tips for Making a Great Barrel-Aged Cocktail:

  • To get started, pick your cocktail; skip anything with fruit juice, egg whites, cream or any ingredients that may spoil. Find recipe suggestions with barrel-appropriate measurements on his website here.
  • Order a barrel from Once it arrives, prime the barrel (to make sure it won't leak) by filling it with warm water and letting it sit for 48 hours.
  • Make the cocktail in a large batch and pour it into the barrel. Hammer in the plug to seal the barrel and let it sit. "After one month, pop the plug and try it," says Morgenthaler, who uses a turkey baster to extract a sample. Reseal it and test it again weekly. "Your sweet spot is at six weeks to two months, but barrels differ so you need to check it. What you're looking for are softened flavors."
  • Pour the aged cocktail into glass containers. Because it won't age further once it's in glass bottles, this can be done well in advance of the reception.
  • For the big day, give the bottles to the bartender, who should pour a portion into a shaker, stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. One barrel makes approximately 160 2-ounce pours. 

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