“Patience is a virtue. Good things come to those who wait. Learn the pace of nature. All of these idle thoughts point in the same direction, instructing us to wait a little—it’s not ready yet,” according to Robin Honhold, former operations manager of the Team Lyan group of bars and current recipe developer for packaged drinks. The same can apply for many cocktails, he reasons. Though aging a cocktail at home may seem difficult, it’s much easier than you’d expect. To get started, here are Honhold’s best tips for aging any cocktail.
Some of the very highest prized (and unusually complex) flavors in food and drink would not exist without the temerity and persistence of those who care for them. Of course, it takes the knowledge of the creator to know when a product needs a little time instead of being consumed “green.” To age or not to age, that is the age-old question.
While one typically thinks of aging wine and spirits, cocktails can also be left to develop. You’re better off laying down drinks that lean toward the boozier, sweeter, slightly bitter end of the spectrum (think a Manhattan or Hanky Panky); the depth of flavor holds its own over time, while bitterness adds structure, much like tannins do. But bright drinks that are traditionally made with citrus, like Milk Punch can also work well.
Below is a quick guide to aging cocktails, whether it’s a brooding whiskey number, a milk punch or a Martini.
Make sure there’s enough ABV. To ensure that your drink is still going to at least taste good by the time you drink it, it’s very handy to keep the ABV above that at which it will easily oxidize, with a minimum of 18 percent.
Tread lightly with fresh ingredients. If you follow the minimal ABV advice, you can include fresh juices, but be advised that you will end up with sediment (which can be strained out) and that volatile compounds in the juice can sometimes lead to off aromas.
Sterilize your equipment. Use a sterilizing powder or solution and a bottle brush to keep everything fresh, following the instructions provided.
Age in different places. Temperature, exposure to sunlight and humidity all impact flavor development. Higher levels of the above tend to provide a more unstable, volatile (but quicker and more obvious!) change in your drink. Consider splitting your batch among a few different vessels to test this out.
Have a plan of how long to leave it. It’s no use going through all of this effort and not leaving your project long enough for aging to have a real impact. Split your batch up to be tasted in stages. Try each in one month, three months, nine months and two years.
1. Sterilize your aging vessel.
2. Combine your ingredients in one big batch, and then decant into containers and apply closures.
3. Label each container individually with the name, the date and what’s inside.
4. Write down the original recipe in a notebook. Every time you open a new bottle, make the original drink for comparison and note how the flavor of the aged version differs, along with the conditions of its aging.
5. Set reminders in your calendar and hope for the best.