I’ve been back to Barreldier multiple times since my interview with Mario Basso almost a year ago, exploring the menu and finding new favorites among his barrel-aged cocktails each time. So when I was asked to come and try the brand new cocktail menu, my expectations were high.
The menu, which consists of 34 cocktails including non-alcoholic and low alcohol options, is beautifully designed, much by Basso himself. It is arranged inventively in loose alphabetical order, where every letter stands for what Basso believes to be the stand-out feature or ingredient of each of his cocktails. To illustrate, ‘B’, as expected, is for Barrel.
The first cocktail I’m served has been aged for two months in the barrel. It is a drink that represents Basso’s love for his heritage, and the Italian concept of aperitivo. Low in alcohol content, the “Spy Gun” is the perfect appetizer. Amaro Averna, Dolin Dry vermouth, and two of Barreldier’s house made bitters make a bitter sweet cocktail which smells like orange and is served chilled in a vintage square-bottom coupe glass. My company enjoys a Manhattan garnished with the house’s marinated cherries.
The ”Hatfield” and the ”Hatfield 2” are complicated drinks for the whiskey drinker with a love for the bitter. The first version is made with two kinds of bourbon; Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, and has been barrel-aged for 4 months. It is the kind of drink that has you raving about it being ”round” over and over (a word that’s easy to use for all the barrel-aged cocktails we try). The ”Hatfield 2”, has a more light and fruity profile, mostly thanks to the added apricot brandy, but also from the pear slice garnish, which is surprisingly and refreshingly fragrant.
While Basso does include a few visually fun and extravagant looking tiki style cocktails on his menu, garnishes generally serve a purpose here. Case in point, the ”Red Red Tree” is garnished with a piece of sugared ginger. An interesting treat full of peppery spiciness that pops in your mouth. Just a nibble is enough to work as a palette cleanser – something I definitely need at this point.
The “Red Red Tree” is served over crushed ice, and while pomegranate and ginger could be categorized as winter ingredients, this is a summer drink. It is made with a vodka base, orange liqueur, fresh pomegranate juice, ginger, and scented pelargonium – possibly the most interesting ingredient I encounter on the menu. It adds a flowery and fresh flavor; like the scent of pelargonium flowers mixed with lemon balm.
Pelargonium is used again in the “Yellow Pearl”. This time it is used to add fragrance to Bullet Rye, along with dry sherry, lime, and kumquat liqueur. It is a well-rounded experience, and this is the first cocktail we’ve tried with more body; giving it a wonderful mouthfeel. This is the whiskey cocktail for those who don’t normally drink whiskey.
Somewhere around here I give up on taking notes. We are served a much needed platter of Italian and Greek treats (here too, things are house made; the marinated artichoke and spiced toast are wonderful). The night goes on, and I recall the “Caliente”; a chili flavored tequila cocktail which is spicy enough to still make an impact on my taste buds. The “Deli Sour” celebrates local ingredients by using tsipouro as the base spirit, and is served with a creamy egg white top. We try cocktails with house made raspberry puree, bitters, and dried peach, and we finally go off menu to enjoy Basso’s own almost apple pie-scented Old Fashioned.
If my expectations were high, it truly didn’t matter. Barreldier’s “Alphabet” is without a doubt one of the best cocktail menus I’ve tried.
This article was written for Toovia Magazine and previously published on Toovia.com (site currently down).
All pictures for this post were taken by Paulina Björk Kapsalis for Toovia Magazine.