Barman Shaun Layton To Barrel Age Two Classic Cocktails…


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.

There are 7 comments

  1. There’s this guy in Victoria named Shawn Soole who works at this place called Clives, and he’s been doing this for the last year or so, don’t know about any claims of being “first”, but anyways …

    Negroni aged in peach bitter casks was probably pretty good, the three month Martinez in Canadian Whiskey cask likely went down a treat too. This month, after a few months in the wood, are ‘Betty’ and ‘Veronica’, Manhattan’s aged in peach and cherry bitter casks. I’ll be there this week, I’ll do some research for you, although I usually stick to bourbon sours, or anything with Sailor Jerry’s…

    You should look him up, he’s a good guy!

  2. Thanks Matt. I’m in Victoria briefly tomorrow night und so will take a gander if I have time.

  3. I’d suggest it’s well worth making the time. 🙂 One stop at Veneto and then over to Clive’s, you won’t be let down.

    We’re having dinner tomorrow night then heading to Clive’s, 9-ish I’d imagine. There’ll be 16 of us, look for the loud industry people.

  4. Nice, Ill have to try one next time there. Also wanted to give credit to Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke row in London for, (as far as I know), was the one who started this whole aging cocktails trend.

  5. Andrew, I have the Martinez aged two months in a Canadian Whisky cask right now. But if you come and sit at the bar you can try the Sazerac in the Red Wine cask, been in there a month or so, not ready quite yet.

  6. OH, and we have 5 casks aging right now.

    Martinez in Candadian Whisky
    Sazerac in Red Wine
    Negroni in Piesporter Riesling
    Manhattan in House Cherry Bitters Cask (Veronica)
    Manhattan in House Peach Bitters Cask (Betty)

    See you tonight