Patience, they say, is a virtue. But for me it’s not something that is terribly innate. However, during a period not too long ago when I found myself favoring the Negroni on a nightly basis, I stumbled upon this New York Times article, which led me to Jeffrey Morganthaler’s post about barrel aged cocktails. As it featured the Negroni as a prime candidate for barrel aging, I was excited to give my current drink of choice a six-week steep and see what the outcome was.
As I’d never had a barrel aged cocktail of any kind I wasn’t sure if laying out the cash for a full on barrel was the best idea. Luckily, Tuthilltown Spirits sells a 375ml barrel aged cocktail “kit” probably for people just like me. Once it arrived I measured and mixed my gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, poured it into the jar, and stared at it for six weeks.
When the moment of truth arrived, I made a classic Negroni and lined it up next to the barrel aged version to compare. And to be honest, I was a bit surprised when I took the first sip of my six-week old concoction. Unlike the brightness of the original cocktail, my barrel aged Negroni tasted much smoother. The bitterness of the Campari was softened by the oak notes now present as a result of the aging. Put in music terms, if the original Negroni has a lot of high frequencies, the aged version has a more mid-range profile. Most striking to me, however, and not at all surprising I suppose, is the way the flavors melded together to create something much more like a singular spirit than a mixed drink.
The final verdict was that the barrel aged Negroni was so distinct from the original version that trying to compare them was more or less pointless. If you like Negronis you might like barrel aged Negronis. Or you might not. Try one for yourself if you really want to know!
One part gin (I used Beefeater)
One part Campari
One part sweet vermouth (I used Martini and Rossi)
Mix the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth together without ice. Pour into your aging vessel and let stand for approximately six weeks. After six weeks, transfer your aged cocktail into a glass jar or bottle. When ready to serve, measure 3 – 3.75 ounces, stir with ice, then pour into a chilled old fashioned glass over a large ice ball. Garnish with an orange peel.