I’ve ordered “actually smoked” drinks several times while patronizing the kind of crafty bars that do this type of thing.
I refer to beverages where a live flame is used to carbonize artisanal wood, the smoke is captured in the glass and forced into the liquid, and the result is served while the mist is still rising.
I’ve always enjoyed the ritualized pyrotechnics, the self-conscious showmanship of barkeep, the delighted buzz of the patrons who haven’t previously witnessed a drink whose preparation would alarm the fire marshal.
Yup: Time to give this a try at home!
How to smoke & drink
- Mix up a simple, citrus-free drink: Your favorite Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, etc. [Shown: Rittenhouse rye, Antica Carpano vermouth, orange bitters.] Stir, no ice: Smoked drinks are best served at room temperature. Prepare your garnish.
- Go outside, or at least do this over your stove top with the exhaust fan roaring.
- Grab one of those grilling planks of cedar, pine, birch, etc. that you find at kitchen stores, hardware stores, and some groceries.
- Use a kitchen torch, or a hand-held propane canister with a brass nozzle, to ignite the wood. Don’t be a fire wuss! Get a big ol’ flame going. You need to generate sufficient smoke density.
- Invert a sturdy Old Fashioned glass over the burned spot
- Delight as you watch the chamber fill with mist.
- Flip the glass over, pour in your mixture, and slap a saucer or piece of wood on top. This “pushes” the smoke into the beverage, effectively forcing the liquid and gas to intermingle.
- Give it a minute. Pull off the cap, run your citrus garnish along the rim, drop it in.
Smoking & drinking & tasting
- Oh, it’s smoky all right.
- By “smoke” I don’t refer to the metaphorical scent of a peaty scotch or heady mezcal. I refer to the vivid, slightly alarming smell of a brush fire by the side of an Arizona freeway.
- At first, the smoke overpowers anything in the glass. Like a game of professional baseball or a first date, the first few minutes are the most difficult to tolerate.
- As the gas dissipates, however, you wind up with a libation that’s as good as whatever you mixed up, but with a layer of satisfying, vivid smoky notes.
Would I do it again? Sure.
But I think I’m more likely to repeat this with friends, or at one of A Measured Spirit’s legendary cocktail parties. Like I said, I enjoy the pyrotechnics, the showmanship, the warm buzz of the crowd.
Oh, one final ingredient I forgot to mention: Fire extinguisher.