★ ★ ★ ★ – Julia Kramer


Exploring Barrel Aging with Classic Cocktails

By Marcus Reidy

The finished product

The finished product

Due to the fire we had last summer, I found myself out of regular bartending work for 3 ½ months. I decided to use this time to my advantage and test some new mixology projects that I thought would work well for our reopening. Most of the cocktails on our current menu are a result of that 3 1/2 month experimentation period. The “6.28,” for example, is named after the date of that June blaze, and features a house-made syrup infused with smoked tea.
Amongst all of my ideas for the new recipes, the one thing I was most excited ti attempt was a barrel aged cocktail. This notion was inspired by a trip I took to Portland at the beginning of the summer. Though I had heard of barrel aged cocktails before, and had even enjoyed a few here in our own city, I was eager to try one made by the man who really helped popularize the concept. He is Jeffrey Morgenthaler of the bar Clyde Common. Upon tasting his barrel aged Negroni, I knew that I wanted to implement this technique at our restaurant. Typically a beautiful, bittersweet cocktail, his barrel aged Negroni presents a more rounded fusion of bitter and sweet, and a rich, burnt orange flavor.
Unfortunately, the day I came back home from my west coast trip was the very same day of our fire. But perhaps this was a blessing in some ways. This gave me 3 ½ months to come up with the perfect cocktail for my barrel aging endeavor. I knew immediately that I wanted it to be a whiskey cocktail, strictly for selfish reasons. Next, I wanted it to involve sweet vermouth. The slight oxidation of vermouth seems to add richness to a drink. Finally, it had to be an “all booze” cocktail; aging anything with juice isn’t a good idea. After extensive research, I decided on an old New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carre. This cocktail comprises equal parts Templeton Rye, Carpano-Antica sweet vermouth, E&J brandy, a splash of Benedictine, and a dash each of Peychaud and Angostura bitters. All ingredients are stirred gently and served over one large, slow-melting ice cube. It’s a tasty, sweet, and boozy cocktail, with a slightly bitter fullness.
About three weeks ago, after acquiring a used Templeton Rye barrel, I began to age the Vieux Carre. I added all the booze ingredients, minus the bitters, undiluted to the barrel. Then I sealed it and let it sit. After 2 ½ weeks I decided we should pull our first batch and test it. In just this brief aging period, a drastic change had occurred. The charred oak of the barrel imparted vanilla and caramel notes to the Carpano-Antica and Templeton Rye, and yielded a prevalent burnt orange character. These emerging aromatic flavors softened the bite of the alcohol. Even non-diluted, this aged version is mellow, rich, and smooth. Adding the bitters to order creates a wonderfully full-flavored, dangerously sippable cocktail that I hope you will come in and enjoy while supplies last!
Unassuming deliciousness in a barrel await.

Unassuming deliciousness in a barrel await.


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Bringing News of Verjus to You!

As promised, while we finish our repairs, we are going to the source to find the very best of what is going on out there and bring it back to you this fall.  Our first trip was this past Monday we headed up to Hickory Creek Farms  for their Verjus celebration.  Fortunately, it was one of those rare below 90 degree days and only about 90 minutes from Chicago, in other words, the perfect day trip.  Indeed it was.

 

What is verjus you ask?  Good question, verjus (translated literally – greenjuice is the very first pressing of grapes during the season).  It can also be done with sour fruits such as crab apples.  Historically it was used in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, it is also found in Syrian Cuisine.  As what you ask?  Think vinegar substitute (heck it is really an unfermented vinegar — could certainly be fermented in a a barrel or cask of your choosing).  In cooking it can be used when a mild acidity is called for.  It is similar to a little citrus juice although the flavor is a bit rounder.

 

Beyond the obvious uses, our hosts (including Beverly Malen) encouraged us to try Verjus Cocktails from Adam Seger  including a fantastically herbaceous Rooibos, Verjus & Rum Punch w/ sour cherries and herbs, a Gin, Verjus & Ginger Beer Cocktail w/ fresh thyme and a Verjus Manhattan w/ Rye.  Important to note: all the spirits were from the fantastic newcomer to the local spirits scene, Journeyman.  They are located in Three Oaks a very short drive from Chicago and well worth the visit.

 

 

Palazzolo’s Sorbetti

 

After a nice covered trolley tour of the vineyards we returned to a tasty feast of goat, which had been roasted by Chef Leonard of another West Suburban local fav, Marion Street.   A feast under the apple tree was accompanied by the wines of Hickory Creek as well as some wines from a Long Island vineyard that may make an appearance on our fall list.  The meal finished with a little crushing of the grapes and a verjus sorbetti from Palazzolo’s Gelato.  The result was a delicious and refreshing alternative to the more traditional lemon or lime flavors.

 

 

So the versatile verjus reminds us that everything old is certainly new again.  We have one question for you?  Do you verjus?  Well if you want to try check out the very brief recipe below and let us know if you have new successes of your own using this interesting acid.

 

How to Make your own Verjus:

Note/Disclaimer: you need a lot of grapes to attempt this.  Figure about a pound and a quater of green wine grapes for one cup of verjus.  Try Midland or call a local winery to see if you can acquire… with the very dry summer it may be a more difficult task then usual.

 

You will need a food mill (wine press is great if you have one), fine strainer, grapes, mason jars to store the juice.  First stem the grapes as much as possible, then run through the food mill in batches.  Then pour through a fine mesh strainer to catch the rest of fruit (you will still have a little sediment on the bottom).  You can strain directly into sterile mason jars or a spouted container useful for mixing cocktails or into a punchbowl for immediate serving.  As with most things food related it is best used fresh but will hold for up to 6 mos if you add citric acid and a little sodium metabisulfate.  If sulfites disagree with you this is probably not something you want to do.

 

Happy pressing!