We took some time to sit down and mingle with our friend Jason Plummer, to get to know him a bit better. You might recognize him as acclaimed home bartender, Barrel-Aged Dad. Creative Director by day, and family man, photographer and cocktail creator by night, Jason says he is on a mission to help folks #drinkbetter.
When and how did Barrel-Aged Dad begin?
I started the page back on Memorial Day 2016. The genesis was a combination of two things: I had always wanted to learn photography and I had started making a lot of craft cocktails at home at the time. Being parents of two young kids, my wife and I weren’t able to go out to restaurants and bars like we used to (not to mention you’ll go broke these days), so I brought the bar home. I needed a place to document the recipes and the photos, so Instagram seemed like a perfect fit.
How did you handcraft the name Barrel-Aged Dad?
First, creating a solid handle that sums you up in a couple letters is hard! I don’t like to take myself too seriously so it needed to be fun. I’m a dad, so that had to be in there somehow because family is the most important thing to me. The subject matter is craft beverages and I love a good barrel-aged cocktail or barrel-aged beer, so add that to the mix. I’m easy going with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. When I thought about it, barrel-aged beverages are mature, refined and smooth around the edges so it was a nice metaphorical spin on my “advanced age” and life experience.
Where did you find your passion for at-home bartending? What lead you to turn it into what it has become today?
I credit a lot to my wife. Being a sous chef before turned stay-at-home supermom, she introduced me to a wonderful culinary world when we were dating. She also introduced me to my first craft beer, which led to a stint in home brewing. I recognized the same culinary foundations and principles that made me fall in love with food, in craft beer and cocktails.
As far as what it’s become today, that was organic really. I never planned to grow the page like it has (and in fact I’ve even taken a step back at times as it started to feel like a job vs a passion project). As long I’m sharing a passion, inspiring others, learning from others, meeting great people and enjoying it – I’ll keep doing it.
How do you spend your time when you aren’t mixing up creative cocktails?
Being a parent to two young boys keeps my wife and me pretty busy. If I’m hanging with family, I’m a happy camper. I love to explore and try new restaurants and bars when possible. Likewise, I love to travel. I’ve really come to love photography so I’m always trying to improve and learn something new there. And while prospects for my childhood dream to be a motorcycle or race car driver aren’t looking great, I’ll keep dreaming the dream.
What are the most important things to have on-hand for someone just getting started in at-home bartending? (Can be ingredients, liqueurs, barware, etc.)
The most basic things I’d recommend are:
- Proper barware: Doesn’t have to be the expensive stuff, but you need a good jigger, barspoon, mixing glass, shaker and strainer.
- Fresh fruit: This makes all the difference. The extra effort will pay off.
- Good ice! Learn all about this key ingredient which is crucial to world-class cocktails at home. Learn when to use which kind and why.
- Simple syrups: Learn to make your own and always have them on hand.
Favorite classic cocktail? How do you put your own unique spin on it?
This is like picking your favorite child. I’m a whiskey guy through and through, so I’d have to go with the Old Fashioned. When made correctly it embodies beauty in simplicity. Being such a simple formula, it’s easy to riff on by changing any one of those ingredients. While I’ve made OF riffs with just about every spirit, I prefer to keep it classic with bourbon or rye, demerara simple syrup and Angostura bitters or Jerry Thomas Decanter bitters, garnished with expressed orange oil over a big rock.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to drinking Bourbon? What about someone who typically only drinks neat or on the rocks?
My advice would be even when you find something you really like, don’t let that stop you from trying other products in that line or even other brands. We all have our go-to, but you never know when you’ll find your new favorite.
If you only drink neat or on the rocks, my suggestion would be try venturing into the cocktail world with some stirred, direct cocktails. These are very spirit forward so it’s a great way to experience the base spirit without a bunch of “filler” or mixers that might hide it. I’d recommend going to a quality craft cocktail bar, grabbing a seat at the bar and chatting up the bartender. Let them know you only drink neat/rocks but are wanting to try out some direct cocktails. Sit back and enjoy the journey! Even if you walk away with just one new cocktail, that’s a win. Ask the bartender for “the specs” so you can make it at home when you get the urge.
What are you making for us today?
Most people think of bourbon as a cold weather drink, so I like to showcase that it’s equally at home in a refreshing mid-summer cocktail. Living in Arizona where it’s 110 for weeks at a time, I can attest that this a cocktail that fits that bill. I also like to play with herbs in cocktails from time to time (no pun intended) so thyme is a nice savory addition to balance out the sweet of the Aperol and honey syrup here (rosemary also works).
- 1.5 oz Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
- 3/4 oz Aperol
- 3/4 oz lemon juice
- 1/4 oz honey syrup
- 2 dashes Jerry Thomas Decanter bitters
- Thyme or rosemary sprigs
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Add a couple sprigs of either thyme or rosemary. Shake. Double strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon and a sprig of your chosen herb for aromatics.