Review: Barrelsmith Negroni, Manhattan, and Boulevardier

Review: Barrelsmith Negroni, Manhattan, and Boulevardier

We have entered a new and exciting phase of ready-to-drink cocktails. Beyond making cocktails easy, convenient, and more transportable, producers are increasingly dedicating themselves to making quality products. Enter Barrelsmith, with the three cocktails we are trying today. Each is made with high quality ingredients and then aged in oak for an undisclosed amount of time. The result is a true cocktail, made to be sipped and savored. Unsurprisingly, the price tag reflects this quality, but for those that appreciate a real cocktail and don’t want to mix it themselves, the outlay could be worth it.

Barrelsmith Negroni – Appropriate to the cocktail, the Negroni ingredients include London Dry gin, rosso vermouth, and a homegrown spirit called Martha Outlaw’s Liqueur in lieu of the traditional Campari. The enjoyable bitter notes of the Martha Outlaw’s Liqueur hit first and merge well with the juniper and herbal character of the gin. Some sweetness, but not too much, comes next from the vermouth. Cinnamon notes from the barrel aging follow at the end. The flavors of the individual ingredients are all present and come together nicely. The instructions suggest drinking it over ice, and I agree. The slight dilution helps open up the cocktail and bring out more of its character. 60 proof. A-

Barrelsmith Manhattan – Made with straight rye whiskey, rosso vermouth, and orange bitters, this cocktail tastes like it was made from scratch. The punchy spice of the rye melds beautifully with the lightly sweet, cherry flavor of the vermouth, and light orange citrus notes peek through, particularly at the end. I don’t pick up notes of the barrel aging here, but it might play a role in how well the flavors are integrated. I tried this straight and with ice, and I think this is one to keep in the freezer and drink sans ice. Undiluted, it is strong, sweet, and spicy the way a rye-based Manhattan should be. 70 proof. A

Barrelsmith Boulevardier – As with the Negroni, this cocktail is made with rosso vermouth and Martha Outlaw’s Liquor, but instead of gin, Boulevardiers use whiskey (here, it’s bourbon). This is another winner. The caramel notes of the bourbon and the cherry sweetness of the vermouth balance beautifully with the bitterness of the Martha Outlaw’s Liqueur. There is also an herbal quality that lends further depth to the cocktail. As with the Manhattan, I can’t identify exactly where the barrel aging contributes to the flavor, but it certainly doesn’t detract from it. Trying the Boulevardier with and without ice, I think that a single, large cube would work best here to provide a little dilution, open it up, and keep it cold. 60 proof. A-

each $38 /

Barrelsmith Manhattan




Robert Lublin teaches whisk(e)y and wine appreciation classes for Arlington Community Education, near Boston, MA. He is also a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has published books and articles on Shakespeare as well as theatre and film history.

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