Smoke isn't just for grilling. Bartenders have taken to experimenting with the stuff for cocktail programs, resulting in uniquely layered drinks with an alluring smoky note.
You can use an expensive smoking gun, which lets you funnel the smoke from charred wood chips (or any other easily burned aromatic, like tea or herbs) through a tube and into a glass. We think it's easier, though, to use a handheld torch and a wood plank.
You use the torch to char the plank, then hold a jar over the burned area to capture the smoke. Once you've got enough, pour in your cocktail, add a lid to the jar, swirl it around for about 30 seconds, and boom: a perfectly smoked cocktail. It's easy, tastes good, and is just about guaranteed to impress your drinking partner.
You've also got a few different options as to what you want to smoke. You can:
Smoke a cocktail. You just mix up whatever you're in the mood for, then pour it into your smoke-filled jar.
Smoke a single spirit. This is good if you want to add a unique note to something that wouldn't otherwise have a smoky flavor, like gin or tequila. Then you can sip it neat, or use that pre-smoked spirit to mix into a cocktail for subtler results.
Smoke ice cubes. Seriously. They play a surprisingly big part in a cocktail's quality, and we've seen top tier bars smoke ice before serving a drink. It gives a very subtle smokiness that's noticeable, but not overwhelming.
You can also burn aromatics like loose-leaf tea, rosemary, or dried spices to add a little variety. If you're using a torch, just lay the aromatics down into a small pile on your plank, char it, and capture the resulting smoke.
Once you've got all that down, you just need to pick the drink you want to smoke. Anything will work, really, but we recommend spirit-forward drinks with just a few ingredients. That's because the nuances of a drink that uses a great deal of ingredients can quickly get lost once smoke enters the equation, so it's better to stick with simpler recipes with assertive flavors that can punch back. Try any of these:
Smoked Gin Martini
A classic, with crisp but boozy flavor that will take well to smoke.
- 5 parts gin
- 1 part dry vermouth
In a mixing glass with ice, stir the gin and vermouth together.
Strain into a smoke-filled jar, agitate for 30 seconds, and let sit for 2–5 minutes.
Pour into a coupe or martini glass, and garnish with an olive or lemon twist.
Smoked Bloody Mary
Admittedly, this isn't a spirit-forward drink, like we recommended above. But the savory brunch standby works beautifully with a bit of smoke, especially if you garnish with a tiny bit of crisp bacon.
- 3 parts vodka
- 6 parts tomato juice
- 1 part lemon juice
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Dash of Tobasco
Add the Worcestershire, Tobasco, and a pinch each of salt and pepper into a mixing glass.
Pour in the vodka, tomato juice, and lemon juice, then stir thoroughly.
Pour into a smoke-filled jar, agitate for 30 seconds, and let sit for 1–3 minutes.
Pour into a highball glass and garnish with celery, bacon, and pickles.
Another timeless cocktail, with a sweet but sturdy flavor that can stand up to smoke.
- 2 parts rye
- 1 part sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes cocktail bitters
Pour rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters into a mixing glass with ice. Stir.
Pour into a smoke-filled jar, agitate for 30 seconds, and let sit for 2–5 minutes.
Pour into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a cherry.
Smoked Ash Blonde
A lighter concoction with a base of aromatized wine. The flowery, fruity sweetness creates an interesting canvas for a smoke infusion – just be careful not to overdo it. You only want to smoke this for a few seconds.
- 3 parts Lillet blanc
- 1 part Cointreau
- 1 splash sweet vermouth
Pour the Lillet and Cointreau into a mixing tin with ice, then shake.
Strain into a smoke-filled jar, agitate for 30 seconds, and pour into a coupe glass.