Best Aged Foods
3 Weeks: Purple Cape Beans
At Empire State South in Atlanta, chef Ryan Smith ferments the local Purple Capes in oak to make a Southern version of Korean bean paste. empirestatesouth.com.
2 Months: Bitters
For its hyperseasonal bitters, Peels in New York City uses glass jars to infuse vodka or gin with ingredients like orange or chestnuts, then ages the liquid for up to two months in oak barrels. peelsnyc.com.
6 Months: Coffee Beans
Water Avenue Coffee Company in Portland, Oregon, ages its house-roasted Sumatra beans in oak barrels to create a distinctive wood-and-tobacco flavor. wateravenuecoffee.com.
6 Months: Maple Syrup
For her Chicago diner Little Goat, chef Stephanie Izard ages maple syrup in red-wine barrels along with smoked fennel and Thai long peppercorns. littlegoatchicago.com.
6 Months: Sugar
Craft confectioner 240Sweet fills bourbon barrels from a Kentucky monastery with demerara sugar and Tahitian vanilla beans; the wood lends the sugar a caramel scent. $15 for 8 oz; 240sweet.com.
3 Years: Vinegar
Chef Jonathon Sawyer makes 19 vinegars from beer and wine, selling five by the bottle at The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. thegreenhousetavern.com.
4 Years: Ocean-Aged Bourbon
Kentucky distiller Jefferson’s ages this bourbon the old-fashioned way, aboard a 126-foot ship. Founder Trey Zoeller says the constant rocking motion increases the amount of contact between whiskey and wood, giving the spirit enormous complexity. jeffersonsbourbon.com.
Aging cocktails in wood barrels can soften harsh edges and add layers of flavor. Plus, the results make a remarkable holiday gift. Here’s why to get started right now.
Where to try the fermenting-tea trend.
Lion Heart Kombucha, Portland, OR
Holds kombucha-making classes. lionheartkombucha.com.
Superfood Bar, New Orleans
Offers four kinds of kombucha, including apple. 4113 Magazine St.; 504-891-7733.
Corazon Juice Bar, San Francisco
Celebrates Mexican flavors like tamarind. corazonjuicebar.com.
Barrel-aged for nearly two years, the last nine months in bourbon barrels, the limited-edition sauce is made in partnership with Vietnamese fish-sauce pioneer Red Boat. Its sweet, smoky flavor is tasty in a Bloody Mary. $18 for 200 ml; blisgourmet.com.
At Charleston, SC’s Husk, chef Sean Brock ages his birds for a week to develop a “funky, rich, deep, dark flavor.” huskrestaurant.com.
Chef Brian Malarkey cures and smokes swordfish belly to make a kind of seafood bacon at Gabardine in San Diego. gabardineeats.com.
Chef Matthew Lightner ages squab for three weeks, then pairs the gamey meat with pear skins at NYC’s Atera. ateranyc.com.
At Underbelly in Houston, chef Chris Shepherd cures akaushi beef leg to serve like prosciutto. underbellyhouston.com.