Everyone loves a barrel aged negroni, but only a few realise that it’s really not that difficult to make on your own. Sure, there’s the time it takes for the mix to develop the dimension and depth that gives a barrel aged negroni it’s distinctive taste, but patience pays when it comes to building up a well of unbeatable flavour.
We were curious ourselves, so we tapped Hunter & Barrel’s resident liquid master Joel Davis for a bit of a step-by-step guide on how to arrive at a drink which lifts the classic negroni flavour in such a complex way. For this one they make use of Settlers Dry Gin, which brings in a strong nose of juniper and Australian botanicals along with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and hints of clove. The palate is said to be rich and velvety, with the bitterness of the campari balancing out the sweet vermouth.
Step 1. The Barrel
Purchase a barrel. This can be acquired from an online vendor of barrels. Below is a couple of websites to get started.
Barrel Barn – Australian company importing American Oak Barrels
Barrels Online – American Company that ships to Australia
A 5 litre barrel will work perfectly. Hunter & Barrel use a medium + char to really incorporate the flavours of the char and barrel into the Negroni
Step 2. The Pre-ageing
When a barrel is brand new it needs to be seasoned in for a short time. As well as this the wooden staves that make up the barrel can have some small gaps in between. The best way to do this is to fill the barrel with warm water and let it soak overnight. This will expand the wood and close the gaps and also take some of the initial char that can be bitter. After this has sat for a day, empty out the water and allow to drain for an hour.
Step 3. Making the Negroni
Take equal measures of gin (A highly botanical gin will work best), bitter orange liqueur (Campari is the most famous) and sweet vermouth (Cinzano Rosso is the most well known but any can be used). Fill this directly into the barrel. A funnel is the best way not to spill this everywhere.
The key to any great Negroni is balance. Having one of the simplest recipes for any cocktail makes the Negroni quite an easy one to remember: equal portions of all liquor.
For a 5 litre barrel 1.6 litres of each component will equal 4.8 litres and fill the barrel out nicely.
Step 4. Ageing the Negroni
Now all that has to be done is wait until it is ready. For best results, taste every 3 days until the oak has integrated into the Negroni. The best way to judge this is to make up a small amount of fresh negroni with the same components that have gone into the barrel. Draw a little bit (approx. 30ml) from the barrel and put them side by side and taste. This will then comparatively show how the oak flavours have integrated into the Negroni. There should be oak flavours showing quite quickly the first fill. There should also be some secondary flavours coming through from the char such as Cinnamon, Clove, Vanilla, Nutmeg among others.
Step 5. The Finished Product
For the 1st fill (The first time the barrel has been used) it may take as little as 1-2 weeks for the Negroni to take on the flavours from the barrel. As the barrel becomes more seasoned it will take longer for the oak to integrate flavour into the drink. It can take up to 6 weeks by the 4th or 5th fill.
Step 6. Drink and Enjoy
To make the finished product, draw 90ml of the Negroni from the barrel and add it to a mixing glass and as much ice as possible. Stir this with a spoon for approximately 15 seconds. Strain this over fresh ice into a glass. Taking an orange, cut a small section of the peel away and cut away as much of the pith as possible. Squeeze this over the top of the Negroni to release the oils from the peel and add it to the top of the drink as a garnish. This will add some amazing aromas to the drink.
Hunter & Barrel is located in Sydney at 303, Cockle Bay Wharf. Check them out online HERE.
Image supplied and used with permission.