Whenever you see a drink with smoke billowing out of it, you want it. Never mind that you hate gin or whatever is actually in the glass. Well, what if you could create smoked cocktails at home? Whether you just want the taste or the full effect, this ethereal dream can become a reality with a few simple tools.
To start, you’ll need a safe place to create a fire. You can either dedicate a wooden cutting board to these cocktails or simply use a few layers of aluminum foil over a wooden board you already own. Use the foil directly on your counters at your own risk.
Regardless of how you create the smoke, glass is your best friend when it comes to smoking cocktails. If you’re more concerned with imparting flavor, go for chilled drinks using a glass decanter (you can use one from your home bar set or a just a wide-lipped, clear bottle). With these containers, you can seal, swirl/shake your way to a smokey paradise.
You can also use a glass dome, usually used for cakes and other desserts, or the serving glass itself for a more subtle smoke palate. Placing the final (ungarnished) drink under a smokey dome builds drama towards the reveal. Smoke in an overturned glass will coat the sides as you prepare the drink itself.
Different methods require practice to nail down your ideal level of smokey flavor, but a general rule is to keep the smoking process under two minutes or even less if you’re using a bottle/decanter. This technique should accent your drinks, not overpower them.
Herbs, Tea, or Wood
Here’s where you can get really creative. What you choose to burn will have a unique effect on the final drink. Go traditional with mesquite or oak wood chips, or try fruitier barks or aroma-forward herbs (like dried rosemary) and teas (earl grey works wonderfully with a variety of cocktails). Matches or a kitchen blowtorch are the best options for lighting your choice of kindling. Get a good blaze going before you blow it out, so you can really make those embers work for you in your chosen container.
An atomizer or mister can prove handy if you like the idea of creating smoked syrups on the fly. You won’t get actual smoke, but you will get to play with fire. Add some fruit and sugar to a cocktail mixing glass and mist the interior with some Angostura bitters as an accelerant. You can make your own blowtorch with the atomizer and a lighter, cooking and caramelizing the fruit while smoking the mixing glass.
Dry ice is very dangerous to work with, but an excellent way to make a cocktail more theatrical without the smokey flavor. Food-grade ice chips are a specialty item, but not difficult to find and drop into a drink. Large bricks of dry ice are easier to come by, if you’re willing to chip it down. All dry ice will sink to the bottom of a drink, but extra care should always be taken when using this method.
These are the most expensive tool for smoked cocktails, but they blow the lid off of other smoking options when it comes to ease of use. Just add your kindling, turn the gun on, and light the kindling. The fan sucks the flame towards the machine, sending the smoke through a tube that can easily be led to any container.