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Barrel-aged cocktails at Teddy & The Bully Bar.
[Teddy & The Bully Bar]

9 Expertly Aged Concoctions to Savor in D.C. Right Now

Drink makers take their time on a growing number of specialty cocktails, beers, and bitters

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Barrel-aged cocktails at Teddy & The Bully Bar.
| [Teddy & The Bully Bar]

When the artisanal cocktail craze heated up a few years ago, discerning bars and restaurants looked for that extra edge that would set apart their Manhattans and Negronis from those of the competition. Many turned to barrel-aging cocktails, a technique borrowed from the world of whiskey- and wine-making that was popularized by bartender’s-bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland’s Clyde Common.

Since then, barrel-aging has become de rigueur in the cocktail world, landing at or near the top of the National Restaurant Association's beverage trend survey for the past five years. And rather than dying out, adventurous bartenders are only diving deeper into the barrel, applying the seasoning method to assorted bitters and beers. Some have even moved beyond the barrel itself, turning to alternative vessels to aid in the aging process.

Here are nine local bars, restaurants, and brewpubs currently making the most of barrel-aging, and — in one case — of a leather wineskin.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Atlas Brew Works

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Of the D.C.’s breweries, Atlas Brew Works might have the most interesting barrel-aging program. Head to the taproom to try La Saison de Brett, a funky farmhouse ale that is aged (with wild Brettanomyces yeast) in local red wine barrels for 12 months, or try Town & Country, a Belgian strong ale aged for nine months in red wine barrels from Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Va.

Rose's Luxury

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This award-winning restaurant features a “luxury” option amid its “everyday” and “throwback” cocktails. One recent inclusion was a 77-day old Black Manhattan ($17) that brought together rye, Averna and black walnut bitters.

As its name suggests, this Capitol Hill bar knows its way around a barrel. The bar’s cascading barrel-aging program leaves behind hints of previous creations, from Negronis to rum-fueled Corn and Oils. The latest barrel-aged cocktail, the Glass Ceiling ($12), provides a unique twist on a gin and tonic, mixing Greenhook Ginsmiths Beach Plum Gin, tonic syrup, and balsamic vinegar that’s then aged for three months.

The Pub & The People

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For a barrel-aged cocktail on a budget, head to Bloomingdale’s The Pub & The People for a house-made Four Roses Old Fashioned ($10) that has been aged for two months. Looking for something different? There are six other productions aging in the bar’s basement.

Right Proper Brewing Company

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At its Shaw brewpub, this D.C. brewery serves Vintage La Flaneur ($6), which is aged twice: the first time for a year, solera-style, in oloroso sherry casks, and then for an additional year once packaged.

barmini by José Andrés

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Leave it to José Andrés' booze laboratory to take barrel-aging to the next frontier. Namely, the “botarron,” a leather wineskin that ages the appropriately-named Leatherette – a mix of vermouth, brandy, rye and sherry – for five days.

Dram & Grain

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Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s reservations-only speakeasy has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to drinking. The Ode 2 Odes utilizes not only the bar’s fondness for smoke but house-made, barrel-aged bitters, which are mixed with rye, rum, and Chartreuse before being served out of a wax-dipped half-pint.

Teddy & The Bully Bar

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This bar’s Teddy Roosevelt theme trickles down to its extensive barrel-aging program. Five takes on the Old Fashioned ($13) are aged for 26 days (Roosevelt was the 26th President) and pay tribute to the various stages of Roosevelt’s life, from the rum-fueled Rough Rider to Boulevardier-esque Trust Buster.

Barrel-aged cocktails at Teddy & The Bully Bar.
[Teddy & The Bully Bar]

Kingbird

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This Watergate restaurant explores the recursive power of barrel-aging with its Watergate Manhattan ($22). A charred American oak barrel is rinsed with Ramazotti (an Italian amaro) before Angel’s Envy Bourbon – itself finished in port wine casks – is mixed with Carpana Antica Vermouth and aged for a month.

Atlas Brew Works

Of the D.C.’s breweries, Atlas Brew Works might have the most interesting barrel-aging program. Head to the taproom to try La Saison de Brett, a funky farmhouse ale that is aged (with wild Brettanomyces yeast) in local red wine barrels for 12 months, or try Town & Country, a Belgian strong ale aged for nine months in red wine barrels from Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Va.

Rose's Luxury

This award-winning restaurant features a “luxury” option amid its “everyday” and “throwback” cocktails. One recent inclusion was a 77-day old Black Manhattan ($17) that brought together rye, Averna and black walnut bitters.

Barrel

As its name suggests, this Capitol Hill bar knows its way around a barrel. The bar’s cascading barrel-aging program leaves behind hints of previous creations, from Negronis to rum-fueled Corn and Oils. The latest barrel-aged cocktail, the Glass Ceiling ($12), provides a unique twist on a gin and tonic, mixing Greenhook Ginsmiths Beach Plum Gin, tonic syrup, and balsamic vinegar that’s then aged for three months.

The Pub & The People

For a barrel-aged cocktail on a budget, head to Bloomingdale’s The Pub & The People for a house-made Four Roses Old Fashioned ($10) that has been aged for two months. Looking for something different? There are six other productions aging in the bar’s basement.

Right Proper Brewing Company

At its Shaw brewpub, this D.C. brewery serves Vintage La Flaneur ($6), which is aged twice: the first time for a year, solera-style, in oloroso sherry casks, and then for an additional year once packaged.

barmini by José Andrés

Leave it to José Andrés' booze laboratory to take barrel-aging to the next frontier. Namely, the “botarron,” a leather wineskin that ages the appropriately-named Leatherette – a mix of vermouth, brandy, rye and sherry – for five days.

Dram & Grain

Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s reservations-only speakeasy has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to drinking. The Ode 2 Odes utilizes not only the bar’s fondness for smoke but house-made, barrel-aged bitters, which are mixed with rye, rum, and Chartreuse before being served out of a wax-dipped half-pint.

Teddy & The Bully Bar

Barrel-aged cocktails at Teddy & The Bully Bar.
[Teddy & The Bully Bar]

This bar’s Teddy Roosevelt theme trickles down to its extensive barrel-aging program. Five takes on the Old Fashioned ($13) are aged for 26 days (Roosevelt was the 26th President) and pay tribute to the various stages of Roosevelt’s life, from the rum-fueled Rough Rider to Boulevardier-esque Trust Buster.

Barrel-aged cocktails at Teddy & The Bully Bar.
[Teddy & The Bully Bar]

Kingbird

This Watergate restaurant explores the recursive power of barrel-aging with its Watergate Manhattan ($22). A charred American oak barrel is rinsed with Ramazotti (an Italian amaro) before Angel’s Envy Bourbon – itself finished in port wine casks – is mixed with Carpana Antica Vermouth and aged for a month.

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