Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

Leftover lifespan

I love party leftovers. Especially after parties like The Art of the Cocktail, a fundraiser for Friends of Turning Point on June 24. Ryan Maybee of The Rieger and Manifesto orchestrated six well-crafted cocktails, while  Kansas City Bartenders’ Alliance members served them up. (Special thanks to our celebrity crew: Jenn Tosatto of The Rieger/Manifesto, Travis Stewart of Manifesto, Brandon Cummins of KCBA, Jason Burton of LAB5702, Tony Beyer of Benton’s Prime Steakhouse and Paige Unger of M&S Grill.)

The menu? The Pendergast, a Maybee staple made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and Angostura bitters, stirred with ice and garnished with lemon peel. A tequila highball made with SodaVie’s Citrus Kicker soda and one made with Hendrick’s gin and SodaVie’s cucumber. Rum punch with Cruzan Black Strap, Sailor Jerry, ginger, lime and Darjeeling tea. Pisco punch with Capel, pineapple gomme and lemon. And a seasonal sour, made by infusing Stoli vodka with locally grown blueberries and thyme from my garden, and then shaking it with lemon juice.

Lovely leftovers with a surprising lifespan.

Of course it was a raging success, with happy guests and happy bartenders. But the happiest? Me, toting home 2 liters of leftover Pendergast. I wasn’t being greedy—rather, I was genuinely curious to see how a big batch cocktail holds up over time.

On Day 1, the day it was mixed using something like 9 liters of Jefferson bourbon, The Pendergast was excellent. This is a perfectly balanced drink and one well worth ordering at The Rieger’s bar, and I’m impressed that Maybee can reproduce it on such a scale. The bottled Pendergast was still quite nice on Day 3, as 80-proof bourbon is a great preserver of flavor. By Day 7, the bourbon had come to the fore as the sweet vermouth began to oxidize. Day 10 introduced a burnt wine character, but the cocktail was still drinkable. My husband continued to nip at it after that, but I’ve held off until today—Day 15.

Two weeks seemed like a reasonable target, given that an open bottle of vermouth can have a lifespan of about that if refrigerated. Is it still the Pendergast Maybee mixed up back in June? No, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. The flavors fell apart, but then they recombined into…well, I’m not sure. Had I poured it into a small oak barrel, it would be an aged cocktail—something Jeffrey Morgenthaler wrote about a year or so ago in The New York Times.

The idea is that aging rounds and softens a cocktail, and bartenders in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and elsewhere are following Morgenthaler’s Portland, Ore., lead by barrel aging Negronis, Martinezes and others. Grub Street’s followed the trend, even posting some cool video showing it done. I hear from Jason Burton that Extra Virgin is aging cocktails in 3- and 7-gallon barrels, but I’ve yet to check it out. Would love to know who else is in this game.

But back to my “experiment.” Admittedly, a used pop bottle isn’t the best aging vessel, but the drink has smoothed out, becoming more of a bourbon hybrid than a distinctive cocktail. The husband says he’s done with it, but I’m still curious. Maybe I’ll keep it another week or two just to see what happens.