While BLT Steak, a restaurant lending its traits to the traditions of the American steakhouse, has locations throughout the United States and in China, Washington D.C. is the only city with a claim on a BLT mixology team. The restaurant has recently introduced a new Barrel-Aged Cocktail Program, which has been inspired by the team’s love for drink recipes with a bit of history. The Washington, D.C. eatery is one of the only in the city to offer barrel-aged cocktails. Bibiana Osteria Enoteca, an upscale Italian restaurant on New York Ave NW and Occidental Grill & Seafood on Pennsylvania Ave NW are only a couple of the other rare establishments in DC to also offer this method of cocktail preparation.
BLT’s mixology program is led by drinkmasters Steve Oshana and Rico Wisner, both of which have garnered extensive experience in their field working at such popular establishments as Elisir, Bar Rouge, and Topaz Bar. With the rising popularity of "speakeasy-style" venues, hidden bars which recall the colorful Prohibition era of secrecy, suspenders, and debauchery (without, of course, any real fears of legal repercussions and plenty of mustache-wielding, bowler-wearing bartenders to go around), it’s no surprise that the historical process of barrel-aging is making a comeback in the mixology scene.
Today barrel-aging is a term that is predominantly reserved for beer or ale preparation. According to StarChefs, this type of aging method has been around since the 18th century. Curiously, while the word “cocktail” didn’t appear in print until the early 1800’s, beginning incarnations of the cocktail were initially stored in wooden casks before being served, making even the very first cocktail creations barrel-aged.
Oshana and Wisner have attempted to put an “old-school twist” on BLT’s classic cocktails, aging them anywhere from a few weeks to a few months in order to achieve what they describe as their quest for “the perfectly-balanced cocktail.” Cocktail blends are placed in charred bourbon barrels accompanied by spices and housemade liqueurs. After being alotted just the right amount of the time for the ingredients “to get to know each other,” as Oshana and Wisner describe, the resulting beverages are rich and smoky with hints of spicy tannins and silky vanillin.
A few of the barrel-aged concoctions on the BLT menu are: The Brooklyn, aged for five weeks and described by Oshana as the “perfect cocktail,” utilizing rye whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino liqeuer, and housemade Amer Picon; Negroni, made with Aperol, Cap Rock Gin, and sweet vermouth; and Bermuda Triangle, aged for two weeks using Gosling’s Black Seal Rum infused with star anise that is later combined with homemade champagne and yeast fermented ginger beer.