by Andrew Morrison | What’s the longest you’ve ever waited for a drink in a bar? Ten minutes? Twenty? Yesterday afternoon I learned that Shaun Layton, the 2010 Van Mag Bartender of the Year and Lord of the Wood at Gastown’s L’Abattoir, was about to start making a drink that could take as short as six weeks and as long as four months to adequately construct. In a first for Vancouver, a barman will age a cocktail in a whiskey barrel. It’s been done elsewhere (Montgomery Place in London, as Layton points out, and at Clive’s in Victoria, as reader MR reveals in the comments), and the results have proven especially interesting for drink wonks. For my part, I find the idea of a couple bottles of sweetened gin mutating unpredictably with hardly inert bitters for months on end inside a 3 gallon whiskey barrel to be straight up fascinating. As a fan of both drinks in sum (and of all their delightful parts), I can’t help but be freaky curious as to what they will taste like. Layton will be checking as time goes by, waiting for the perfect time to stop the woody infusion and load the mix into a few carefully considered bottles. Cooler still, he’s secured two barrels from Tuthilltown distillery in New York’s Hudson Valley: a bourbon cask and one that, until recently, contained a Yankee single malt.
And so, to soak in the bourbon barrel will go a Negroni, the ultimate aperitif of gin, vermouth and campari, whilst the single malt staves will impart mystery unto a Martinez, that maraschino-licked classic of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters (the original Martini, if the lore is to be believed). The experiment begins Wednesday, and we’ve invited Mr. Layton to keep us abreast of how things develop as the drink evolves.
PS. I’ve already called shotgun on the second sip.