Inspired by his visit to Tony Conigliaro’s 69 Colebrooke Row (whose lab is now The Drink Factory, Morgenthaler began throwing classic cocktails into small barrels and aging them. Aging cocktails isn’t a new invention – ads from the 1910′s show that barrel aging of cocktails has been popular before – but their popularity has surged in great part to Morgenthaler and Conigliaro. Aging cocktails in barrels serves two main purposes: first and foremost, it adds wood notes to the equation (in very much the same way as adding raw spirit to barrels does), and secondly, it allows the cocktail to oxidize, which can round the corners on some flavors and allow harsher elements to soften.
The challenge of providing the barrel-aged cocktail in a retail bottle is much greater than at your local bar. In a bar it’s legal to mix ingredients and serve them, but for a distillery it’s a much more difficult task, as it’s illegal to repackage liquor that’s already had the Federal Excise Tax paid for it. The folks over at High West Distillery, who are known for their inventiveness and resourcefulness in whiskey, figured out how to get vermouth wholesale, mix it with the High West 95% rye whiskey and Angostura bitters, and age it in 2 year old rye whiskey barrels for four months. The result is High West Distillery The 36th Vote Barreled Manhattan (74 proof $56.99 circa).