Jason Alexander is a man who always has a smile on his face and a cocktail project on the go. We caught up with him as we continued our own look into barrel aged cocktails. Jason owns and runs the Tacoma Cabana Rum and Tiki Bar in Tacoma, Washington, USA. As we spoke to him he was still on a high following the Seahawks’ storming win over the Broncos at this year’s Super Bowl.
As we settle in to the conversation Jason talked about his love of cocktails, ‘I’ve been making barrel aged cocktails for the past year and a half’, he says. ‘I first learned about them from a guy named Josh Miller. He runs the inuakena.com website and suggested that I start with the El Presidenté due to the relative ease of barrel ageing it. I was about 9 months into opening my bar at the time and I’d been making tiki and classic rum cocktails for a few years by then’.
Looking across the bar he continued, ‘I started with a new, one litre, medium charcoal, American oak barrel. Into it went 16oz of light Plantation 3 Star rum, 8oz of Dolin Dry Vermouth and 4oz of Clément Creole Shrubb. Then I just let it sit for a couple of weeks before pouring it into a bottle with a pour spout, for ease of use. To complete the aged El Presidenté, just measure out 3oz from the bottle, add a bar spoon of pomegranate syrup, stir with ice then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist’.
Asked what were the benefits of barrel ageing, Jason took a moment and then continued, ‘The barrel lets the flavors marry really well, along with imparting a nice oakiness to the drink. I’ve also barrel aged the Palmetto. It’s the rum version of the Manhattan. A nice aged Barbados rum with sweet vermouth and orange bitters lends itself very well to barrel ageing. The Singapore Sling is another cocktail that is good to experiment with. I’ve found that you have to combine the gin, brandy, Benedictine and Cherry Herring in the barrel, while saving the lime juice for after you drain the barrel because the barrel really dries this drink out. The most notable effect was the rich oak flavor imparted by the barrel. It really added a whole other level of flavor that the Sling didn’t necessarily need, but it definitely benefited from’. It is true, there is a very subtle yet significant change. The Singapore Sling becomes a super smooth Singapore Sling.
‘You can have fun with other aspects of the process too’ smiles Jason. Such as? ‘You can also precondition a barrel. I once filled a new barrel with cream sherry and let it sit for two weeks while I infused an over proof white rum with coconut. When the time was up, the barrel was drained and the coconut rum was then fine strained into it to remove the coconut pith and left for another couple of weeks. The result was a barrel aged rum infused with a mellow coconut flavor and soft subtle hints of dried cherries and oak. This was not your typical vanilla sweetened, artificially flavored coconut rum like the commercially available brands. No way. This was something else, it was in a whole new league. It inspired me to push a little further and I used the same technique to make an old fashioned with chocolate bitters that was out of this world. Man that was good! Next I used it in the classic tiki drink Leilani Volcano which combines guava, pineapple, lime, sugar and my barrel aged rum and things just kept getting better’.
So what’s next, what will we see appearing on the Tacoma Cabana menu? ‘I always like to have a cocktail project going on whether it be coming up with something new, recreating a classic, making punches or barrel ageing cocktails. I gotta have a project. Right now, I’ve taken a break from barrel ageing cocktails to focus on my rum and tiki drinks. I do have plans to barrel age some other stuff in the near future. But for the time being, I have some different cocktail projects in the works’ Jason concluded. We are looking forward to hearing all about it.