Our interest in fires and smoke is perhaps a remnant of our primal ancestors. I’ve found that if you want to impress someone, start a fire.
But, more importantly, where there’s smoke, there’s undoubtedly flavor. Think of all the smoked delicacies one can buy—smoked meats, cheeses, fish, tea, even vegetables.
But have you ever thought about smoking a drink? And if so, how do you smoke a drink?
There are various ways to impart a varying degree of smoky taste to your drinks. They are, in order of smokiness, smoking garnish which delivers the smoked aromas, smoking the glass, smoke-rinsing your drinks, and using a direct smoker. The last will impart the smokiest taste to your drink. There are also non-burning options, including smoked salt, sugar, ice, and citrus.
We’ll guide you through the effective smoking ingredient options before we dive into the four methods of how to smoke a drink. We also offer some ideas if you don’t want to set things on fire but want a smoke taste in your drink.
It goes without saying when you are setting things on fire, there are a few basic rules to follow:
- Work outside if possible. Otherwise, work in a well-ventilated space.
- Use a kitchen blowtorch or matches. Avoid lighter fluid because it can release harmful chemicals into your ingredients.
- Do not attempt to set something alight if you are intoxicated.
- If you suspect a gas leak somewhere in your house, or if you are unsure, stay outside with the burning.
- Never burn more than what you need at a time.
- Tie loose hair back and avoid wearing loose clothing or clothing made from synthetic materials such as nylon.
- Extinguish all flames or burning materials with water when you are done.
- Never light ingredients in a glass. Ever. It can cause an explosion.
- Keep the alcohol far away from the burning station.
With these safety tips, you can safely and effectively prepare some fabulous smoked cocktails.
Best Ingredients for Smoking
Here are some ingredients you can try which will add a smokey addition to your drink:
- Wood chips: oak will mimic barrel aging and bring out the charred wood taste in whiskey, bourbon, and rye. Pecan wood will add a nuttiness.
- Cinnamon: gives you a subtle sweetness and light smoke.
- Rosemary and lavender: adds a herbaceous, woody flavor.
- Vanilla beans: again, a sweet and light smoke.
- Salt: enhances the overall profile of your drink while adding some smokiness (here’s a recipe to make your own).
As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless.
If you are unsure how a smoked ingredient will taste, the easiest way is to set said ingredient on fire outside and smell the smoke. If the smoke smells good, it will probably taste good as well.
Be sure to do some research beforehand—there’s no point ending up in the emergency room because you unknowingly released poisonous compounds in the ingredient.
We’ll look at the four main methods of smoking drinks: smoked garnish, smoking the glass, smoke-rinsing drinks, and direct smoking.
So, let’s get smokin’!
The smoked garnish is the easiest way to get the smokey flavor for beginners.
Set the garnish on fire with a flame or kitchen blow torch. You will feel powerful! But don’t let it burn, put the flame out after a few seconds to allow the garnish to smolder. Keep in mind that your garnish has to be dry for this technique.
Options for this technique are cinnamon sticks, rosemary, lavender, or thyme twigs, vanilla seed pods, and dried fruits. Whole spices such as aniseed will add a licorice taste. These options add the aromatics of the herbs or fruit to your drink.
To wow your guests and satisfy your inner pyromaniac:
- Prepare the cocktail as usual.
- Set your item on fire on a plate or in a baking tin to protect your kitchen or bar counters.
- Let it burn a bit, then extinguish the small fire.
- Place the burnt but still-smoking garnish on the rim of your cocktail glass and serve.
Guests can drop the garnish into their drinks for a more intense flavor or leave it on the glass and inhale the aroma while they sip.
This is the most straightforward and least expensive smoking technique. But also the most subtle.
Smoking the Glass
Second, lighting your garnish and letting it smoke is smoke-rinsing your glass. This works best with chilled glasses, so it takes a bit of forwarding planning.
Avoid using lighter fluid—it may leave a chemical residue, but a blowtorch will work perfectly. Make sure your spices are organic; if you’re using wood chips, they are untreated and specifically for smoking foods.
Follow these simple steps:
- Chill your glasses for at least an hour or two before serving cocktails
- Place your smoking ingredients (wood chips or spices) in tiny heaps inside your baking tin
- Light one heap at a time, let it burn, and produce a good amount of smoke
- Quickly place the glass over it to extinguish the flame and let it smoke. If you are scared of damaging your glasses, extinguish the flame first and immediately cover your pile of smoking goodness with the glass.
- Let it smolder until the smoke dissipates and the glass becomes opaque.
- You can pour your cocktail as you usually would
This technique works exceptionally well with whiskeys and whiskey cocktails.
This technique is a bit more involved but creates a much more intense smoke flavor.
- On a heat-proof surface (ceramic, wooden, or an old, clean baking tray), make a pile of your smoking ingredients.
- Set it all alight. To get the most smoke, heat it until it catches fire.
- Set a wide-mouthed jar such as a Ball mason jar over the pile of smoking ingredients and leave it to fill with smoke while you prepare your cocktail.
- Use pre-chilled glasses.
- Gently lift the container and immediately strain your cocktail into the jar.
- Quickly seal the jar and swirl the cocktail around in the jar for at least 30 seconds, but a minute would infuse it best with the smoke.
- Pour your cocktail into the prepared glass.
This method is easy and fun; you can prepare more than one cocktail.
The alternative to the method above is to use a cloche (glass bell jar) and a smoking gun. You’ll prepare the cocktail in the glass you’re serving and set it under the cloche. Attach the smoke gun or tube to the hole and create the smoke. When you are ready, remove the dome.
If you cannot afford a smoking kit, you can also do the following:
- Prepare your drink.
- Set the ingredients alight, blow out the fire.
- Put your drink next to the smoldering ingredients.
- Quickly place a glass dome over the smoldering ingredients and drink.
- Leave it for a minute or two to infuse, remove the dome, and enjoy your drink.
These methods won’t infuse your drink with much smoke; rather, the smoke will cling to the cold glass, and you’ll have the aromatics of smoke when you sip your drink.
But what if there was a way to smoke your drink directly without all the fuss described above? There is a way!
The patented Foghat Smoker is a little smoking hat for your glass. You prepare your cocktail as usual, and then the magic happens!
You will place the smoker on top of the prepared drink, light the smoking ingredients until you get a nice thick smoke, put the cap on, and leave it on your drink.
As the ingredients smolder on top of your drink, it will infuse the drink with a smokey flavor. When you are ready to serve, simply remove the smoker and enjoy the magic of a smoked and smoking drink.
Adding Smoke Without Burning Ingredients
If you don’t like burning things or have safety concerns, there are other methods to add a smoky taste to your drinks.
Remember smoked salt? This will give a margarita a nice smoky touch when you dip the glass’s rim in smoked salt or sugar.
Peated Scotch whisky will also add the smoke taste—if you aren’t big on smoky whiskies, a tablespoon will be sufficient to add the smoked taste. Remember, American whiskeys are aged in charred oak barrels, so they will have a degree of smokiness to them as well.
Here you can also find the smoked ice and citrus recipes to add the smoke element without overwhelming the palate.
Always practice safety when working with fire or setting things on fire to create smoke.
You can achieve a smoked drink with varying degrees of smokiness by either allowing you to garnish your drink with a smoke element, smoking the glass will impart a smoky taste to your drink, smoke rinsing drinks imparts a lot of smoke taste to drinks because they come into direct contact with the smoke itself.
A direct smoking method such as a smoker placed on top of the drink will impart a direct smoke to your drink. There are also non-flaming options will still give you a smoky taste without burning things.
Whichever method you choose, be sure to do it safely and enjoy your unique drink.