High West is Doing Pre-Mixed Cocktails the Right Way
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Stop Wasting Time Making Barrel Aged Cocktails From Scratch

There’s no denying the amount of pleasure you can find in a well-made cocktail. That said, they also take quite a bit of time and a plethora of ingredients, and some can take quite a bit of effort to perfect. As the holiday season approaches, time is often at a premium.

Pre-mixed cocktails have been around for a very long time. Unfortunately, they haven’t always been great. Honestly, they haven’t really been good, either. Pre-mixes for creating cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan have existed almost solely for bar use or large-format venues. Furthermore, barrel-aged cocktails, which have become a staple for upscale bars and restaurants with house recipes, take an additional step: dealing with a likely leaky barrel and the addition of more aging time to perfect.

Thankfully, that’s finally changed. High West recently released a pair of barrel-aged cocktails: a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. I’m delighted to report that not only are they better than good…they’re great.

High West

High West Barrel Aged Manhattan & Old Fashioned

Bottled at 37% ABV, a 375-milliliter bottle of High West’s Barrel Finished Manhattan serves six guests. The full-sized bottle, a 750-milliliter, serves 12. I prefer these both served with the bottle chilled and a cherry (plus an orange slice for the Old Fashioned), but they take to ice as well if guests prefer a slightly less spirit-forward cocktail.

A notable pro to what seems like a high-octane ABV here is that it allows you to shake or stir to preference for each guest you’re serving a drink for. That, and the garnish, is the extent of the work that you need to undergo while also attempting to host, cook and keep your house from imploding as the holidays bear down.

High West

Bitters and vermouth are well placed here. In Wisconsin, where I reside, the Old Fashioned is somewhat bastardized, using soda toppers, excess fruit and a lack of bitters. Also, brandy. I like a brandy Old Fashioned, but there is no question that the original style calls for whiskey. Here the whiskey, vermouth and bitters are well balanced. If you like your cocktails a touch more bitter, a dash will do. I often find that Manhattans served abroad can sometimes lean heavy on the bitters, and Old Fashioneds can be heavy on the sugar. Neither is an issue here, which is the crux of High West’s success: balance.

Overall, a full-sized bottle of each will run you around $40-$45 in most markets. That may seem steep, but if you consider a complete lack of heavy lifting and barrel aging on your counter and a yield of around $3.75 or cheaper per drink, there’s really no argument.

That said, if you want to splurge a touch, pick up a Norlan Rauk tumbler for a luxurious arm workout and drinking experience and kick back by the fire. Your work is done, and you’ll actually have some time to enjoy your company with a drink in hand.

Disclosure: High West provided these for review. Our critic Jay enjoyed them enough to stop making his whiskey cocktails from scratch and write about them. No commission is made from the recommendations in this article. 

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