Driftwood

  • 2000ml Wild Turkey 101
  • 1200ml Chivas Regal 12YO
  • 800ml Christian Drouin Blanche du Normandie White Calvados
  • 500ml Sugar Syrup
  • 150ml La Fontaine Blanche White Absinthe
  • 70 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 70 dashes Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
  • 70 dashes The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters

To Prepare: Combine all ingredients into a 5L bourbon barrel, and age for at least 3 weeks, tasting regularly.  Once the flavour profile has changed sufficiently, pour out the contents of the barrel and reserve in clean, closed containers until ready to use.

To Serve: Decant 70ml of the aged cocktail into a mixing glass with ice.  Stir and strain into a rocks glass with ice, and garnish with a slice of licorice root.

This drink was my very first foray into barrel-aged cocktails, created for the menu at The Ocean.  As I mention in my article about barrel aging, I suspect that every time you use a barrel the effects of the wood will change, so this recipe will need to be adjusted depending on the barrel you have and its condition.  Consider the proportions, then, a rough estimate.

One of the things you may notice is that this cocktail has three different spirits.  Each spirit has its own role to play.  The Wild Turkey contributes heavy rye notes (despite being a bourbon) as a nod towards the original Sazerac recipe, but it also has a high ABV, which I wanted to help extract more flavour from the barrel.  The un-aged calvados was to contribute apple notes to blend with the anise and clove from the bitters and absinthe, while at the same time showcasing the effects of wood on an un-aged spirit.  Finally, the Chivas was to provide texture and length to the cocktail, as its grain alcohol content would help lighten up the dense flavours, while maintaining a certain amount of alcoholic strength so that the cocktail doesn’t die in the mixing glass.

This cocktail was inspired by both a pragmatic consideration of what would be the best way to extract the most value from a barrel, and also the name ‘Driftwood’.  When I set out to create a barrel-aged cocktail, I had almost immediately settled on the name Driftwood before the first recipe crossed my mind.  For some reason, the flavour profile that kept popping into my head when I thought about a piece of wood floating across oceans was anise, and I had at first wanted to make a Vieux Carre twist with some absinthe and maybe some honey.  As I explained, the Vieux Carre was a bit too expensive to put on our menu, but so much the better, because this cocktail turned out incredibly well.