Barrel-Aged Vieux Carré – How to Make and Age the Classic New Orleans Cocktail

The Vieux Carré is a resurrected classic cocktail. It’s a spirit-forward drink made with Rye Whiskey, Brandy (Cognac preferred), Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Aromatic Bitters, Peychauds Bitters and Lemon Twist for garnish. Although, in this case, because it’s been barrel-aged, I prefer to garnish it with an Orange Twist, but Lemon is the usual garnish. As with any Barrel-Aged drink, the Barrel-Aged Vieux Carré is not necessarily better than the “fresh” Vieux Carré ( It’s better to think of them as separate drinks. It has it’s own unique characteristics.

This cocktail comes from Post-Prohibition New Orleans. The name, Vieux Carré, is the French term for the French Quarter. It first appeared in print in 1937 in the book, Famous Drinks of New Orleans by Stanley Clisby Arthur. The book credits the drink to Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone, which is a beautiful old hotel in the French Quarter that is now famous for the Carousel Bar. The drink fell by to the way side for decades, to the point where the staff at the Monteleone didn’t know what it was, let alone how to make it. But luckily, it was rediscovered by Chuck Taggert and posted on his site, Gumbo Pages, which brought it to the attention of Ted Haigh, who included it in his seminal craft cocktail book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.

I aged this one for 21 days. For this size barrel, particularly a new barrel (one that has not been used to age another spirit or cocktail) you’re probably going to want to aim for 14 to 21 days. If it’s the first thing to go in the barrel, check it every week after the first week. If it’s a second or third fill, you could leave it longer. If the oak flavors are starting to shine through, it may be time to pull it, unless that’s what you want the most prominent flavor to be. The dominance of the oakiness will become less of an issue the second and third time you use the barrel.

If it’s the first time using the barrel, you’ll have to cure it. The barrel should come with instructions, but it’s just a matter of running water through it until it stops leaking. After the cocktail’s in the barrel you wanna make sure the bung in secured tightly. Be prepared to to lose a little volume while it’s in the barrel. That’s normal.

After being in the barrel, the cocktail picks up some qualities from the wood. I got some wild notes around the edges of this drink, things like oak, dark cherry, dessert wine, a hint of chocolate and mint that almost reminded me of Thin Mint cookies. The chocolate notes most likely came from the Carpano Antica, which has chocolatey qualities to it, it’s just that the barrel helped highlight them. Also, I found that garnishing it with an orange twist complimented to barrel-aged version well. The original, “fresh” version calls for a Lemon Twist. The lemon twist works great in both versions, but I prefer the barrel-aged version with an orange twist. That said, you can’t go wrong, either way. This is such an amazing cocktail and having a bottle’s worth of it ready at a moment’s notice, is a beautiful thing. It’s New Orleans in bottle. Who dat!

Recipe (1-Liter):
300ml (10.25 oz) Rye Whiskey
300ml (10.25 oz) Cognac (or Brandy)
300ml (10.25 oz) Sweet Vermouth
50ml (1.75 oz) Benedictine
25ml (0.75 oz) Aromatic Bitters
25ml (0.75 oz) Peychauds Bitters

Combine ingredients. Add to cured oak barrel. Age for 2-3 weeks. Taste occasionally. When ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer and bottle.

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Featured in This Episode:

Rittenhouse Rye

Remy Martin VSOP

Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth


Angostura Bitters

Peychauds Bitters

Bluegrass Barrels

Bar Tools:

OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Angled Measuring Cup

Godinger Dublin Double Old Fashioned Glass

OXO SteeL Double Jigger

Vegetable Peeler


Mixing Glass

Hawthorne Strainer


Fine Mesh Strainer


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