This is a special time for me, both as a bartender and as a writer. I've spent the past 18 years behind the bar, obsessively learning all I can about my chosen craft, then the last two years committing that knowledge to paper. Last week, all of that hard work culminated with the release of my first book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
It didn't come easy. Writing down everything you know about a particular subject is exhausting. But so is the aftermath. Or better put, so is the unsettling feeling of "I've just told the world everything I know. What now?" It's a question that friends, family members and journalists have asked me endlessly in the wake of the book's release—what now?
My fellow bartenders are typically very protective of their ideas. Tiki icons 'Trader'Vic Bergeron and Don The Beachcomber were legendary for pre-mixing and bottling certain components of their house cocktails to keep their proprietary recipes a secret—even their bartenders had little insight into the exact proportions of the drinks they were pouring.
But I've taken a different approach with my work, an approach influenced by the open-source software movement. I feel that without sharing my ideas with the world, I'll never improve them or see them improved upon. A perfect example is the barrel-aged cocktails we serve at my bar, Clyde Common in Portland. I easily could have kept the idea to myself, making the drink available to only our guests and enjoying my success with a smug sense of satisfaction.
Instead, I chose to share the technique on my blog, inviting the world to refine it. Now it's become something of a phenomenon in the cocktail world; for instance, a couple of years ago I had the pleasure of visiting Aviary in Chicago, where they presented me with a flight of barrel-aged Martinis that so vastly improved upon my original drink that I hardly recognized it.
This is why I'm releasing the collection of all my heretofore cocktail knowledge as a book—to start a dialogue that helps bartenders and home mixers improve what they do, which, in turn, only helps what I do. It's also why I'm offering here, my first barrel-aged cocktail recipe. Like my good friend Jim Meehan once told me when I thanked him for an opportunity he gave me many years ago, "We'll never grow this thing if we don't help each other out."
106 oz. Tanqueray No. TEN gin
22 oz. dry vermouth
Procure a one-gallon oak barrel, fill with warm water, and wait until barrel is watertight. Discard water. Combine ingredients, pour into barrel, and seal. Age for up to two months, checking flavor weekly.
Pour contents into a clean one-gallon container. To prepare Martini, stir 3 oz. aged Martini with ice cubes until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. Read more of his Playboy columns here.
Photo by David L. Reamer