The Art of the Smokey Cocktail

Smokey cocktails have been all the rage and are actually really easy. They can be made at home quickly as long as you have a few of the right pieces of equipment and something to burn that smokes (e.g., tobacco or wood chips). They are super versatile, imparting whatever flavor you want to a drink.

Of course, you can cheat and get a smoking gun and/or chamber or something similar. They’ve come way, way down in price. BUT, I’ve found that if you REALLY want that good smokey flavor, you need to let the flame extinguish under your glass the good, old fashioned way. Smokey old fashioned, anyone?

The Basic How To

This is the basic “how to smoke”. I’ll give some riffs at the end for some flavor additions. I absolutely love smokey drinks, just be prepared to wake up tasting/feeling it in the morning!

Equipment

Instructions

  1. Place the cast iron pan on a flat surface.
  2. Place a pinch of tobacco in a little mound, 1-2 small wood chips, or a combination thereof right in the middle of the cast iron.
  3. Torch the tobacco/wood chips until they are burning and on fire. It helps to keep the torch about 4 inches above the material and move it in a small circle until the material catches fire.
  4. Immediately place the cup upside down over the fire. The fire will burn for another few seconds and then smolder out when all the oxygen in the cup is consumed. Leave the cup there as the smoldering fire continues to smoke.
  5. Meanwhile, make yourself a cocktail. The gives you time to let the cup fill with smoke as you make a perfect, cold cocktail for yourself.
  6. Once the cocktail is ready to pour, flip the cup over slowly to about a 45 degree angle and slowly pour the liquid into the cup. This will keep the rush of liquid from the drink from pushing out all the smoke. I like to hold the cocktail shaker in my left hand, flip the cup slowly with my right, and then pour right in.
  7. Serve IMMEDIATELY. Viola! Enjoy!

Easy Riffs

Flavored smoke pairs super well with a lot of drinks, but my favorite drinks are bourbon or whiskey cocktails: manhattans, old fashions, or boulevardiers (in my, the most underrated drink around).

The smoke plays well with these and other cocktails, but some easy things you can do to make it even better.

  • HERBS – Place a fresh or dried sprig of herb on top. So, lay a small amount of rosemary (fresh of dried), basil (dried works best), or sage (fresh or dried) over the tobacco or wood chips before torching.
  • MEAT – I know this sounds super weird, but one of the best old fashioned I’ve ever had is a smoked wagyu beef old fashioned. Putting a bit of precooked bacon or very thinly sliced beef on top either before or after flaming the tobacco/wood infuses a meaty flavor. If you’re using bacon, I’m into smoking with it AND using it as a garnish.
  • HOT PEPPERS – Want a spicy drink? Throw a slice or two of a hot pepper on top of the flame before throwing the cup over top. Just a note, depending on what pepper you use, get ready for your eyes to water! If you’re using anything hotter than a jalapeno, I’d recommend making these drinks outdoors.

Harder Riffs

One of the more difficult things you can do is actually infused smoke (and other flavors) into ice. This process is SUPER cool, as it makes your drink take on a different flavor and character as the ice melts.

The first way to do this is using something like liquid smoke, which comes in assorted smokey flavors and really lasts forever if you get a few bottles. Simply add a few drops to the water you use to make ice and pour it into your ice cube trays.

The second, and more ambitious but tastier way, is to infuse it into the water as we did above. For this, you’ll need to:

  1. Freeze some ice cubes.
  2. Place the ice cubes on a larger cast iron skillet or pan. Grab a lid big enough to fit over the entire ice cube tray.
  3. Add the tobacco/wood and flavorings to the skillet.
  4. Get the tobacco/wood flaming as before.
  5. Cover with the lid and let it extinguish.
  6. Here’s the difference… keep the lid on until the ice melts completely. As the ice melts it picks up the smokey flavor. I’m not sure why, but starting with just plain water has never worked well for me, even if I let it sit for an equivalent amount of time.
  7. Once the ice is completely melted, remove the lid and place the ice back in the freezer.

Ice Riffs

Riffing on the smokey ice cube is SUPER fun, mainly because any flavor can be frozen in with the ice. For example

  • Honey Ice – Mix 1/8 cup of honey in with the water before freezing the ice in step 1. When the ice is smoked and re-frozen, adding it will cause the drink to become smokier and sweeter with time.
  • Citrus Ice – Adding a few oz of lemon, lime, or (my favorite!) yuzu juice results in a smokey, citrus flavor that’s unbeatable.
  • Herb Ice – This one is cool. Literally take a piece of basil, rosemary, or sage and put it directly into each ice cube before freezing. This can be on the first freeze or the second. It looks beautiful and slowly reveals the smell of the herb as the ice melts and smokes the beverage.
  • Flavored Simple Syrup – In another post I talk about how to create wonderful flavored simple syrups. Mixing 1-2 oz of this into a batch of ice will give a very complex, sweet, and smokey flavor that progresses as you drink any beverage. Can’t be beat!

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