The art of crafting cocktails is a tale as old as time, but the trend of smoking cocktails has added a captivating twist to this narrative. As a mixologist and cocktail-smoking connoisseur, I've explored the origins of smoked cocktails and experimented with countless recipes. This guide will take you on a journey through smoked cocktails and have you diving into some must-try recipes.

Smoking cocktails is a relatively recent trend in the grand scheme of cocktail history. The technique borrows from the age-old tradition of smoking foods to enhance flavor and preservation. As mixologists began experimenting with smoke, they discovered that it could add depth, complexity, and a touch of theatricality to cocktails. Today, smoked cocktails are loved by enthusiasts worldwide for their unique sensory experience.

Smoked Old Fashioned

Let's start with this classic cocktail, originally invented in the 19th century. It gets a smoky upgrade that accentuates the rich flavors of bourbon.

For this recipe, you'll need 2 oz bourbon, a sugar cube, a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters, an orange peel for garnish, and oak wood chips for smoking.

Muddle the sugar cube and bitters in a glass, add ice and bourbon, then stir until well mixed. Pour the cocktail mix into a rocks glass over a large ice cube or ball, express the orange peel over the cocktail, and use it to wipe the rim before smoking the drink.

Using a cocktail smoker gun, infuse the cocktail with smoke from the oak wood chips. If you don't have oak chips, hickory or applewood chips can also work well.

A classic twist on this recipe is to two teaspoons of maple syrup instead of the sugar cube, smoke both the bourbon before creating the cocktail, as well as smoking the entire cocktail itself if you have a smoker box for a Double Smoked Maple Old Fashioned.

Smoked Margarita

Next up is the Smoked Margarita. This zesty tequila-based drink is a favorite at parties.

To create a smoked version, you'll need 2 oz tequila, 1 oz fresh lime juice, 1 oz agave nectar, salt for rimming the glass, lime for garnish, and mesquite wood chips for smoking.

Shake the tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar with ice, then strain into a salt-rimmed glass. Salting only half the glass rim is a classy touch and if you're making many, some just don't like the salty rim and that technique eliminates that problem.

Use your smoker gun to infuse the drink with smoke from the mesquite chips. If you can't find mesquite, try cherry or applewood chips for a different flavor profile.

Smoked Whiskey Sour

The Smoked Whiskey Sour is another classic that benefits beautifully from smoking. You'll need 2 oz whiskey, 1 oz fresh lemon juice, 1 oz simple syrup, an egg white (optional), and applewood chips for smoking.

Shake all the ingredients (except the chips) with ice, strain them into a glass, then use your smoker gun to infuse the drink with smoke from the applewood chips. The smoke adds a subtle sweetness that complements the whiskey perfectly. The egg white foam helps the smokey flavor resonate throughout the cocktail.

Dragon's Breath

The Dragon’s Breath cocktail features a unique smoking effect created by filling an inverted brandy snifter with mesquite smoke. The sweet and sour fruity flavors are provided by Cointreau and St-Germain, an elderflower liqueur.

The ingredients are as follows: 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon (use your favorite), 1 teaspoon St-Germain, 1 teaspoon Cointreau (or other sweet orange liqueur), and 1 teaspoon simple syrup or smoked simple syrup. I often use a bar spoon to measure out these flavor enhancers.

Load the smoker with apple wood chips and fire it up following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Hold a brandy snifter upside down. Insert the smoker tube into the glass and fill it with smoke until you can’t see through the glass. Tightly cover the glass with a coaster to hold in the smoke and turn it upright.

Then add the bourbon, St-Germain, Cointreau, and simple syrup to an ice-filled shaker or cocktail mixer glass, and stir rapidly (do not shake) for about 20 seconds. Uncover the snifter and immediately strain the cocktail into it. Serve at once, with the smoke still spilling from the glass, quite the dramatic effect!

Smoke on the Water

The Smoke on the Water cocktail is an elevated concoction and can be considered a variation of the Margarita. Despite containing a full ounce of watermelon juice, the fruit flavor is not overpowering. However, the hibiscus simple syrup adds a strong sweet, and sour taste, as well as an earthy flavor.

You'll need the following ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces Mezcal or tequila if preferred, 3/4 ounce Cointreau, 1-ounce watermelon juice, 1/2 ounce hibiscus simple syrup (see quick simple syrup recipe below this cocktail recipe), 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed if possible, and high-proof alcohol soaked rosemary sprig for garnish.

To make the drink, put mezcal, Cointreau, watermelon juice, hibiscus simple syrup, and lime juice in a shaker with some ice. Shake thoroughly until it is well-chilled. Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Place the prepared sprig upright in the rocks glass, and light immediately before serving.

Besides the vivid red coloring from the syrup and juices, the drink gets a visual boost from the garnish, a flaming sprig of rosemary that is first soaked in high-proof alcohol such as grain alcohol or Everclear to make it extra flammable. Extinguishing the burnt rosemary sprig in the drink creates the smoky cocktail effect and will infuse notes of rosemary, adding complexity to this concoction.

Simple Syrup Recipe

It's quite easy to make your own simple syrup and impart different flavor varieties. To make a flavored syrup, boil 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of your preferred flavor. The above recipe calls for dried hibiscus flowers or hibiscus tea, but vanilla, basil, strawberry, mint, and rosemary are popular as well. Let steep for 10 minutes then strain into a glass jar with a lid or a simple squeeze bottle. The syrup will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Smoked Manhattan

The Smoked Manhattan is still the classic Manhattan makeup, 2.5 oz rye whiskey, 1 oz sweet vermouth, a dash of Angostura bitters, and a cocktail cherry for garnish. (I like to use bourbon-soaked Luxardo cherries!)

Combine the rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake or stir.

Fill your smoke infuser with the wood of your choice. I feel oak adds a nice depth, or mesquite adds to the spiciness of good quality rye, your preference. Place the hose end of the smoke infuser in a martini glass with a cocktail cherry.

While the smoke is filling the glass, strain the cocktail into the glass. This coats the glass with smoke as you add the spirits. Then cover the glass with plastic wrap and fill the top of the glass with smoke. Remove the hose and seal the plastic wrap to trap the smoke. Let sit for one minute and remove the plastic wrap and enjoy.

Hickory Spicy Smoked Bloody Mary

I can't forget the vodka enthusiasts in this list. Let's jump into America's most celebrated breakfast cocktail, the Bloody Mary. While an ingredient-heavy concoction, people have tons of fun with variations, so here's mine.

Your favorite brand of vodka, 1 ½ oz, celery stick (garnish), 1 piece of crispy bacon (garnish), salt(for rim), hot sauce 1 teaspoon (I love Cholula), 4 oz. of tomato juice or spicy V8 if you want to punch it up, a teaspoon of horseradish, a healthy pinch of black pepper, 1/2 oz. of Worcestershire sauce, and a ½ oz. of fresh lemon juice.

Place the non-garnish ingredients into a shaker and give it one good shake. In case you don’t have a shaker, take another glass and pour the drink back and forth between the two glasses about four times.

Take the empty serving glass, slightly dip half the rim into lemon juice, and then dunk onto a plate of salt to create an elegant salt rim.

Take the same glass, place the gun’s hose into the glass, and seal it with saran wrap. Place hickory chips into the smoking chamber and turn on the gun. Let smoke fill the glass, remove the hose, and let the smoke sit for at least a minute.

Garnish with bacon and celery stalk and let Sunday breakfast begin!

Smoked Rose

We'll wrap this up with a Smoked Rose cocktail, for the scotch lovers among us.

1 sprig of dried rosemary, 2 ounces of a smoky Scotch whisky, 1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse liqueur, and 1/4 ounce of rosemary syrup (see simple syrup recipe above) are all you need, but the magic is in the preparation.

Smoke a coupe glass to flavor the inside (cherry wood chips work best here). Light the dried rosemary sprig on fire, extinguish the flame, and place it inside the glass.

In a mixing glass filled with ice, pour the scotch, Green Chartreuse, and rosemary syrup. Stir well and strain into the smoked glass. If you have a smoking gun or smoker lid, you can add some smoke to the finished cocktail as well to add more depth of flavor.

Variations To Consider

As the Smoke on the Water cocktail proves, you don't always need to employ a cocktail smoker to get the smoky flavor you seek. One alternative is to use smoked ice cubes using either smoked water that's been frozen or liquid smoke added to your ice cube water (be gentle!). Others can be a burnt sprig of an herb such as rosemary, grilled citrus fruits, or a smoking cinnamon stick.

Don't forget that the spirit itself can often have smoky flavors, such as scotch, which often carries a smokey peat flavor. Some spirits are made with a "smoke" flavor from the distiller, mostly gins and vodkas.

Time to experiment!

In conclusion, smoking cocktails is an art that involves careful selection of ingredients, precise measurements, and mastery of the smoking process. With a bit of practice and creativity, you can create the best smoked cocktails that are not only delicious but also visually stunning. So, grab your cocktail smoker gun, gather your ingredients, and let's embark on this flavorful journey together. Cheers!

Don't have a cocktail smoking device? Check out some options here:

The Best Cocktail Smoker Kits Have You Reaching For A Drink ASAP!
Craft your own delicious drinks at home - just add alcohol, flame, and smoke! Come along with me as we explore the art of imparting cold smoke into cocktails.
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