Judd Smith of Wine Country Bistro Talks Barrel-Aged Cocktails

Featured photo: Judd Smith of Wine Country Bistro.

A self-described “obsessive nerd,” Judd Smith is the affable but difficult-to-photograph (“I have resting meanface, I always look angry”) beverage director for Cadre Hospitality Group, the company helmed by Chef Jason Brady that operates Wine Country Bistro, Zocolo Neighborhood Eatery, Southern Fork Catering and the competitive barbecue team Bohemian Pork. Smith has applied his obsessive nerdery to the bar program at Wine Country Bistro, where barrel aged cocktails like the old fashioned and the manhattan are now periodically offered at the bar. If you’re reading this post on the weekend of November 21, 2014, a new batch of barrel aged old fashioned cocktail has just been unbarreled. And it is delicious.

A photo of a cocktail
A barrel aged old fashioned cocktail from Wine Country Bistro in Shreveport.

“The old fashioned is probably what our bar is best known for,” Smith said. “It’s been one of our top sellers for the last five years or so. So, I wasn’t aiming to improve it by offering a barrel aged version, as much as I was just aiming to offer a different take on it.”

Barrel aging involves mixing a batch of cocktail ingredients – minus any fruit or sugar, which could spoil – and aging the mixture for 30 or 60 days in an American white oak barrel.

“You’re letting those ingredients and flavors mingle and marry,” Smith said of the process. “And I believe that putting the old fashioned into the barrel makes it smoother and easier to drink, as well.”

Wine Country Bistro’s take on the old fashioned cocktail consists of whiskey, bitters, sugar, muddled cherries and orange peel. The barrel aged version replaces the fruit with orange and maraschino cherry liqueurs. Smith usually announces the availability of new barrel aged cocktails – which take 60 days to mature but usually sell out over the course of a weekend – via the Wine Country Bistro Instagram (@winecountrybistro) and Facebook. The guy is going to need a bigger barrel.

As far as I am aware, Wine Country Bistro is the only restaurant in Shreveport that is barrel aging cocktails on a regular basis. 2Johns Steak & Seafood has also been barrel aging for some time, and their barrel aged margarita is said to be ridiculously good. If you’ve tried a barrel aged cocktail anywhere in Shreveport-Bossier, let us know what you thought of it in the comments.

Just an aside: As a blogger who writes content on behalf of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, I never spend tourist bureau money on alcohol for the purposes of a blog review. When the check comes, it’s my personal card that’s paying the bill. I just felt this warranted mentioning. -Chris

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