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Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em: Tips on How to Add Smoke to Cocktails

"Imma sip until I feel it, Imma smoke until it's done." - Drake

Drake was obviously speaking about smoking cocktails on the track "Im On One" and, like Drizzy, we're big fans of adding smoke to a cocktail here at The Manual. As daunting as it may seem, there are actually several ways to add a subtle smokiness to a cocktail with and without the use of fire. Incorporating a smoky flavor component to a drink is just one way to add a layer of complexity with relative ease but there are a few things to consider before you start setting off your smoke alarm.




10 minutes

What You Need

  • The OG: The Smoking Gun

  • The NKOTB: The Glass Topper

  • Wood Chips or Herbs

  • Smoky Spirits

While the heyday of the smoked cocktail may have passed, your Instagram feed may be telling a different story. Thanks to some new tools, cold-smoking a cocktail is easier than ever. Maybe you don't want to add literal smoke to a drink but just the flavor? You're in luck, because there are some spirits out there that use smoke in their production that can add a layer of smokiness to just about any cocktail. Whether you want to cold-smoke a spirit or a finished cocktail like a smoked Manhattan or just add the flavor without the hassle, we've got you covered.

A smoking gun on a white background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The OG: The Smoking Gun

Originally designed and built by PolyScience over a decade ago, the Smoking Gun was bear-hugged by chefs and bartenders alike for the ability to cold-smoke nearly anything from the palm of your hand. By adding wood chips to the small bowl and using a torch to produce the intended smoke, a small internal fan sucks the resulting smoke through a small rubber hose so you could direct it anywhere you want. It works just like one of those "tobacco smoking devices" you may have come across in college or at your local head shop.

To smoke a cocktail using a Smoking Gun, you'll want to follow the recipe of whatever you are making and smoke the finished result. Since smoke condenses in colder temperatures, it's best to smoke the final drink after being stirred or shaken with ice, otherwise the smoke will dissipate too quickly. If you're bougie, place your finished cocktail under a cloche and direct the smoke under it. Let it sit in the smoke for at least a minute or so before removing the cloche.

If you're a normal person like we are and don't have a cloche sitting around, just use something large enough to cover the cocktail glass and the smoke; use a stock pot, a large bowl, or even a small cardboard box. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to taste good. Alternatively, you can strain your chilled cocktail into a large decanter and add your smoke to that. Give it a few swirls and pour into the glass of your choice.

A smoking glass topper.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The NKOTB: The Glass Topper

Pretty sure we just dated ourselves here by using NKOTB, so for those of you too young to understand that means "New Kids On The Block." The new kid that's been popping up on your Instagram feed lately is a small smoking device that sits directly on top of your glass. Composed of a wooden lid and a bowl, this little device relies upon the condensation point of smoke in a cold temperature environment to accurately smoke a cocktail to order. Since the temperature of the cocktail in the glass is lower than the temperature of the smoke, the smoke sits atop the liquid like a foggy San Francisco morning. Just fill the bowl with wood chips or dried herbs and light away. After a minute or so, remove the lid and enjoy your freshly smoked cocktail.

Wood chips and herbs being lit inside a glass.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Tried & True

You don't always have to smoke the finished cocktail. You can also smoke the glass while you prepare the drink. Using a sturdy, unfinished wood plank as your base, make a little pile with some wood chips or herbs and, using a torch, set it ablaze. Quickly cover your burning ingredients with an upturned glass and let it extinguish itself as it fills the glass with a delicious smoky flavor. When your cocktail is ready, turn the glass over and pour your finished cocktail into the newly smoked vessel.

Spray bottle containing different types of liquid lined up.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Rinse & Repeat

The simplest and quickest way to add a smoky flavor to a cocktail is using a technique called "rinsing" since you are rinsing the inside of the glass with a liquid to add flavor. The most popular smoky spirits to rinse your glass with are peated Islay scotch (such as Ardbeg or Laphroig) and mezcal from Mexico (Del Maguey Vida is a great choice.) Both spirits offer a smoky punch that's a great addition to a Manhattan, Negroni, or Old Fashioned. To rinse the glass, pour a small amount into an empty glass and roll it around to cover the interior, and dump out the remaining liquid (or keep it in.) If you are using a small atomizer, spray two to three times into the glass and you're good to go.

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John Maher
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Born in Richmond, VA, Chef John Maher has over two decades of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. From…
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