Infusing cocktails with smoke one cocktail trend that I hope is here to stay. It adds layers of flavor and subtle nuances and for a whiskey drink in particular, adds that little extra something that you cannot get from a spirit on i’s own. For me, there is nothing better than a classic old fashioned that has been smoked. It’s delicious.
The current practice of smoking cocktails began in 2007 when Eben Freeman, a barkeeper at Manhattan’s , infused smoked cherry and alder woods into a house-made Coca Cola syrup. With that syrup he created a new version of Jack and Coke, and with it an entirely new genre.
The science of a Smoked Cocktail
When a cold glass covers a burning mound of wood chips or other substances, the smoke comes in contact with the glass, and the moisture on the sides of the glass. The water-soluble molecules in the smoke (basically everything but the tar and carbon particles) dissolve in that mixture, imparting their smell and taste into the cocktail being created.
How to make a Smoked Cocktail
We’ve found that the best way to get all of that smokey goodness into your glass, is to do the following:
- Chill a glass so that it is cold or you can pre-rinse a room temperature glass so that there is a little moisture left in the inside of the glass.
- Torch a piece of wood (use our cocktail smoking block or the wood of your choice).
- Invert the glass over the top of the smoke and let it collect in the glass. Make sure there is a good seal to trap in the smoke.
- While this is happening, make your cocktail in a separate mixer/shaker.
- Remove the smoked glass from the smoking wood and add the cocktail and ice.
It’s really only a step or 2 more than a conventional cocktail, and with the right tools, like a cocktail smoker, it can be just as easy.
What’s a Cocktail Smoker?
There are a few different types, but they all aim to do the same thing – introduce flavors into beverages by way of exposing either the whole cocktail or some of its components to smoke.
Some different types of cocktail smokers are:
- Glass Infuser – Used to smoke the glass in which the cocktails will be served (our favorite).
- Covered Infuser – A dome placed over the cocktail, its components, and the wood/medium being burned.
- Top down Infuser – Placed on top of the glass of a prepared cocktail and lit to infuse the drink below it.
The History of Smoking Food and Beverages
From a surprisingly early time, peat was used in creating spirits – in particular, Scotch. Peat was considered the best fuel to use in the malting process and it was also used to dry barley. Phenols released in the burning peat create oils in the smoke that linger and help create scotch whiskey’s essential character.
Across the Atlantic, producers of Mezcal were doing similar things. Instead of the peat and kiln are replaced by a huge fire pit or underground oven. Large fire pits be heated by hardwood (pine or Mexican Oak) and covered with volcanic rocks are used to heat up the agave based spirit and lend the characteristic spicy and chocolatey notes. The intensity and flavor of smoke in any particular mezcal varies, depending on the type of wood used in the fire pit, how dry or damp it is, the proportions of wood to agave as well as on the cooling time.
For both whiskey and mezcal, smoke is the key. What makes a smoky whiskey work well is also all the things that circumscribe the peatiness.
Some Smoked Cocktail Recipes to Try Out
Smoked Old Fashioned
- 2 fl.oz. straight rye or bourbon whiskey
- 1 sugar cube or simple syrup
- twist of orange peel
- cocktail cherry (Luxardo brand is delish!)
- 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- Smoke a glass and then add ice. Cover while you mix your drink.
- Mix the sugar cube and a dash of water (sub simple syrup for the water and sugar cube), bitters, bourbon (sub rye or your favorite whiskey), orange twist and ice (optional) in a mixing glass.
- Stir for about 15 seconds
- Strain into your smoked glass
- Garnish with the cherry and the orange peel and serve.
- 2.5 oz rye whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- Dash Angostura bitters
- Cocktail cherry (again, Luxardo preferred)
- Smoke a glass and then add ice and cover to lock in smoke.
- Pour rye, sweet vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Shake or stir.
- Strain into a smoked glass
- Garnish with the cherry and serve.
Smoked Bloody Mary
- Tomato Juice
- Lemon Juice
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Tabasco Sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Mix 3 parts vodka, 6 parts tomato juice, juice of a lemon, Worcestershire Sauce to taste, dash of Tabasco, add salt and pepper.
- Infuse the mixing glass with smoke and add Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper. Cover.
- Thoroughly mix tomato juice, lemon juice and vodka.
- Pour the mixture into the smoke filled serving glass.
- Garnish with celery stick (or the garnish of your choice) and serve.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 tsp. St. Germaine
- simple syrup
- Infuse an inverted glass that is set on a flat surface with smoke and cover
- Put ice cubes in a shaker. Add bourbon, St. Germaine, Cointreau and simple syrup.
- Stir rapidly for about 20 seconds.
- Turn the serving glass over, add the cocktail from the shaker and serve.
- 2 oz. gin or vodka
- 1 oz.dry vermouth
- 1 cup ice cubes
- Strip of lemon zest or and an olive (or two!)
- Chill the martini glass.
- Combine the gin or vodka, the vermouth, ice and smoke from a smoke infuser into a shaker glass.
- Stir and strain into the chilled martini glass. Release the oils from the lemon zest and drop peel or add olive(s).
These are some examples of basic recipes. Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with different cocktails and different smoke flavors. You can smoke your garnish. You can create your own signature cocktails! Use your imagination and creativity to experiment – there are almost unlimited possibilities!
Certain types of wood are better than others for each Smoked Cocktail.
Whiskey Based Cocktails
Hickory, mesquite, Applewood, cherry, pecan, hickory and Oak. Bonus points for using bourbon soaked oak for a double dip of smoke and bourbon. A few more non-wood item worth trying is are – corn husks and cinnamon sticks.
Gin and vodka-based cocktails
These pair well with eucalyptus and citrusy notes. These themselves can be smoked to impart flavor. Botanical oils can be used to soak wood chips or herbs such as ginger or rosemary can be smoked as can salt, ginger citrus peels.
Give it a Try!!
Over time, human being’s palates have become accustomed to and actually desire smoky flavor. Most cultures have many dishes that are created around grilling or barbequing. Since very early on humans have used fire as a source of heat, light and as a means of cooking .At this point in history, you could say that smoke is now “part of the human DNA”. Since what we want to drink is largely driven by what we eat, it is no wonder we have found ways to incorporate the smoky taste we love not only in our food but also in our beverages.
Smoke always has a drying effect on the mouth so for a smoky whiskey to be balanced you need sweetness -and that is where the fermentation and sweetness come in, and also why Bourbon works so well with smoke. No matter what the tasting notes of the liquor you use in your cocktail, you can further personalize it and fine-tune it to your taste – and you can also use your imagination and creativity to explore and find new tastes!