Smoked Cocktails: Why and How to Make Them
Drew Limsky, ReserveBar Spirits Contributor
There’s something inherently dramatic about serving up a smoked cocktail, the beverage equivalent of celebratory flambéed French desserts like Bananas Foster or Crêpes Suzette. Even a lit garnish atop a glass becomes an immediate conversation piece.
But smoke is about more than drama — it adds aroma and flavor. And it takes skill and thought; think of pairing the alcohol and the taste of smoke as akin to a wine pairing at a multicourse dinner. For example, scotch pairs well with thyme, Irish whiskey is a natural with coffee beans, and bourbon is nice with cherrywood. Patience helps: Top bartenders are known to try multiple flavors of smoke to find just the right complement.
If you’re new to this and want to tiptoe into the world of smoked beverages, try performing a simple smoke rinse. Start by chilling your glass so the smoke will stick to it. Set whatever you are smoking — with a blow torch or smoking gun — on fire and quickly trap the smoke inside your now-overturned glass. The smoke will disappear, and then it’s time to pour. Flip the glass and execute the pour in front of your guests.
For a more intense smokiness, capture the smoke inside a vessel with an airtight top and add the cocktail ingredients. Then pour it into a chilled glass. But do the smoking outside for safety reasons. Whether smoke-rinsed or fully smoked and served on a plank, if you plan on crafting smoking cocktails regularly, it might be best to invest in a smoke infuser or smoked cocktail kit. Suddenly, you’ll be known as the smoking hot mixologist.
These preparations will give you a sense of the versatility of smoked cocktails.
Want to feel transported to the islands? Try this smoked rum drink.
- 1 oz. Aged Rum
- 1 oz. Jamaica Style Rum
- ½ oz. Swedish Punsch
- ¼ oz. Grenadine
- 2 Dashes Tiki Bitters
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and then add ice, stir and strain over a big cube into a rocks glass and then garnish. Lastly, cover the cocktail in applewood smoke.
SMOKE ON THE WATER
If you’re looking for fresh and fruity, this sweet concoction does the trick.
- 1 oz. Watermelon Juice, Freshly Pressed
- ½ oz. Rosaluna Mezcal
- ¾ oz. Cointreau
- ½ oz. Hibiscus Simple Syrup
- ½ oz. Lime Juice, Freshly Squeezed
- Flaming Rosemary Sprig (garnish)
Soak a fresh rosemary sprig upside down with 100-proof alcohol for five minutes. Add the mezcal, Cointreau, watermelon juice, hibiscus simple syrup and lime juice to a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. To garnish, place the prepared sprig upright in the rocks glass and light immediately before serving. Extinguish before drinking.
SMOKED ESPRESSO MARTINI
A hot spin on the after-dinner drink of the moment.
- 1 oz. Vodka
- 1 oz. Coffee Liqueur
- 1 Standard Shot of Espresso
Fill your cocktail shaker around half-full with ice, then add your other liquid ingredients. Use a smoking gun to fill the shaker with smoke; go easy on the smoke. After adding your smoke, add the shaker lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass.
SMOKED OLD FASHIONED
This classic, a favorite of Mad Men’s Don Draper, is a great excuse to invest in a smoke infuser—and it’s simple to make, with only a handful of ingredients.
- 2 oz. Straight Rye or Bourbon Whiskey
- 1 Sugar Cube
- 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Twist of orange peel and cherry (garnish)
Place the sugar cube and orange peel in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Insert the tube from the smoke infuser and fill the bowl with smoke. Recover with wrap, and let it sit for one minute. Give it another blast if you’re partial to extra smokiness.
Then place the sugar cube in a whiskey glass. Soak in the bitters and a little water and muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add ice cubes to the glass and stir with a spoon. Now add the whiskey and stir. Garnish with a twist of orange peel and cherry. Cover the glass with plastic wrap and insert the hose from the smoke infuser under the plastic to fill the glass with smoke. Let sit for one minute.
When guests arrive on a cold winter’s night, these smoked cocktails will take the chill away. They’ll stick around for the buzz and the visuals—there’s nothing like a performance with fire—and leave with a story.
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