Ready-made cocktails don't have a great reputation. Nor should they: Freshness comes first, right? Not always. The Handmade Cocktail Company, which has been bottling cocktails for the past year now, decided to reach back into its liquor cabinet to create ready-to-drink Negronis, Manhattans, and Rob Roys made with antique spirits from the sixties, seventies, and eighties.
This is not just an exercise in convenience or laziness; these drinks feature flavors you've never tasted unless you own a basement full of liquor from 50 years ago. Take the Antique Manhattan: It features Canadian Club from the 1960s, Punt e Mes and Martini Rosso from the 1970s, and Wild Turkey from the 1980s. That means you get to sample whiskey blends that aren't made anymore and spirits that have oxidized over the years, creating liquid lushness you won't find at any local bar.
Admittedly, this is not the first attempt at squeezing flavor out of very old bottles, either. The popular Seattle spot Liberty has been serving barrel-aged cocktails for years now—as have bars like 69 Colebrooke Row in London and Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon. This summer, Gin Palace brought gin and tonics on tap to New York City's East Village.
But what the Handmade Cocktail Company is doing is radical in a new way. While most bars insist on barrel-aging, HCC wants the aging process to happen in the bottle and over decades, providing a different kind of mellowing effect, one that brings out fruity notes, in particular.
For home bars, this is a godsend. You can buy a bottle and keep it cold until you're ready to impress. Just remember: A Negroni isn't finished until you add an orange peel, and a Manhattan isn't done until you garnish it with a cherry. Even with the trip to the supermarket, these will be the easiest cocktails you'll ever make.
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—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him @kwagstaff.
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