Images courtesy of Quadrant Bar & Lounge
For better or worse, trendy cocktails have gotten very…sciency. But what if actual science could be applied to aging the booze itself?
As it turns out, Chris Mendenhall, lead drinks alchemist at Quadrant Bar & Lounge, tucked into the Ritz Carlton Washington D.C., realized the possibilities of aging liquor not with time, but with sound. A self-proclaimed curious mixologist, he was “always seeking ways to expand [his] knowledge. Sound-aged liquor was a journey down a ‘Google black hole’ that led to learning about technology that is being introduced into the spirit world.”
So, what is sound-aging? It’s a way of infusing sound waves into spirits, which mimic the effects of, well, aging. Mendenhall has a special process that injects wood into the spirit directly, pushing it through like a sieve. Sounds easy, right?
But according to him, “It took my team and I about a year to develop the recipes and ratios using the device we purchased.”
So what’s the benefit of sound aging? As far as he’s concerned, it’s educational. “The sound waves allow us to impart characteristics of time and help educate the guests on what whisky is, how it’s made, what re-casting is and why it all takes time.”
His most favored cocktail so far is the sound-aged negroni which he describes as, “a negroni for those that don’t like negronis, and a new twist for those that do.”
By pushing the liquor through the wood itself, all the subtle characteristics of that wood are that much more prevalent. Chris introduced a combination of wood soaked in cabernet to round out the sharpness of the newer liquor, and created a caramel-like aged flavor which mellows the finish.
So, what are the best sound-aged liquors?
“My favorite is the sound-aged Bourbon #1,” he says, “It is best showing guests just how whisky is made and what time does to whisky.”
It also happens to be made with 120-proof nine-year-old Kentucky bourbon that he processes with a customized homogenizer that “ages” spirits in under thirty minutes. According to him, the best way to enjoy it is, “neat with a sample of the unchanged base.”
The Quadrant Bar & Lounge itself is a testament to the changing face of downtown Washington D.C., which although steeped in history, has lately been enthusiastically embracing innovation. Though he doesn’t much care for “cocktails that use crazy ingredients, but instead those that you see and taste, and know that someone put a lot of thought and effort into creating – whether it be simple or complex.”
For our further enlightenment, we asked him to further elaborate on four of more popular sound-aged spirits.
Bourbon Style #1
An example of a pure age reflection, this bourbon shows the true power of the machine without added variables such as wood chips to mimic a cask. The“base” is a 120 proof, nine-year-old Kentucky bourbon. After being sound-aged, the “change,” yields a more mellow bourbon with pepper, leather, and vanilla notes.
Bourbon Style #2
This seven-year-old Kentucky bourbon has a “base” of 107 proof, and after being sound-aged with American Oak chips soaked in a 10-year port, the “change” yields a sweeter, richer bourbon with caramel notes.
Whiskey Style #1
The “base” is a 90 proof Tennessee sour mash whiskey. After being sound-aged with French oak chips soaked in sherry, the “change” yields an incredibly smooth whiskey with notes of corn and vanilla.
Rye Style #1
The “base” is a 100 proof, four-year-old American rye whiskey. After being sound-aged with French Oak chips soaked in cognac, the “change” yields bold hints of pepper, orange and chocolate.