Barrel-aged cocktails became a thing after Portland, Oregon, bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler began experimenting with them and selling them in late 2009. That happened at Clyde Common, the bar and restaurant in the Ace Hotel in Portland.
There are many places where one can purchase a barrel-aged cocktail in New York now. But on May 10, one was opened by an actual partner in Clyde Common, Matthew Piacentini. Called The Beagle, it's located at 162 Avenue A in Manhattan's most drinkingest neighborhood, the East Village.
"There were ceratin aspects about Clyde that I liked," said Piacentini. "But it's absolutely a Portland restaurant and I wanted to make absolutely a New York place." One thing he wants the Beagle to share with Clyde, however, is "that the food and bar program will be given equal billing."
"With the Beagle, we started with the bar," he continued. "It was the driving force. Everything had to, not defer to the cocktails, but nothing could take away from it." The chef is Garrett Eagleton, a veteran of that Clyde Common. Piacentini, who lives in New York now, and was most recently the bar manager at inoteca e liquori bar, hired a colleague from there, Dan Greenbaum to help created the bar program.
Two barrel-aged cocktails are in the works. Piacentini doesn't see the point in aging liquors that have already seen some wood, such as whiskey and brandy. So he is concentrating on white spirits. One cocktail already in barrel is the Tuxedo No. 2: gin, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters and absinthe. A second is a "white" Manhattan, using high-proof Buffalo Trace white dog, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters.
The Manhattan will be made through an interesting, multi-barrel process similar to the solera system used to make sherry. A week or so after one barrel is filled with Manhattans, another barrel will be similarly prepared. When the first cask is ready, half of it will be emptied out, and the cavity will be filled by part of the younger contents from the second barrel. Theoretically, this will result in a constant supply of a consistent product.
The cocktails should be ready by late June or early July. There will also be a variety of classic and original crafted cocktails and a selection of "pairing boards," in which a food is paired with a particular liquor; i.e. Sweetbreads and Calvados, Lamb Neck and Rye, and, most intriguingly, Braised Celery and Gin. Mmm. Celery.