What are the Benefits of Smoking a Cocktail?

by Faith Housley

In the ever-evolving world of mixology, bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts are continually seeking innovative ways to tantalize the senses and create unforgettable drinking experiences. One trend that has gained significant traction in recent years is the art of smoking cocktails. Beyond the theatrics, smoking cocktails offer a plethora of benefits that extend beyond the visual appeal, enhancing both the flavor profiles and overall enjoyment of the drink.

Enhanced Flavor Profiles:

The allure of smoking cocktails lies in its ability to introduce a sophisticated and nuanced layer of complexity to the overall flavor profile, transforming the act of imbibing into a truly elevated and memorable experience. By harnessing the transformative power of smoke, mixologists can impart a subtle yet distinctive smokiness that intertwines seamlessly with the existing flavors of the cocktail. This infusion of smoky notes doesn't overpower the drink but rather harmonizes with its components, creating a symphony of tastes that dance across the palate.

The choice of smoking agents plays a pivotal role in defining the character of the cocktail. Various elements such as different wood chips, aromatic herbs, or exotic spices contribute a myriad of distinct aromas and flavors during the smoking process. For instance, the rich, earthy tones of oak might enhance the depth of a whiskey-based cocktail, while a delicate blend of dried lavender and rosemary could complement the botanical nuances of a gin concoction. This versatility allows mixologists to tailor the smoking experience to the specific qualities of each cocktail, resulting in a customized and unique taste that lingers long after the last sip.

Versatility Across Spirit Categories:

Smoking cocktails are not limited to a specific type of spirit; they can be applied to a diverse range of cocktails, from classic whiskey drinks to tropical rum concoctions. This allows the smoker to develop new cocktails, finding which concoctions work best together. Wood chips sourced from barrels that once cradled fine spirits, such as bourbon or Scotch, infuse the cocktail with echoes of their previous contents, adding layers of complexity and history. Similarly, the choice of herbs and spices provides an opportunity to experiment with cultural influences, offering a sensory journey that extends beyond the liquid in the glass.

This versatility allows for the exploration of smoking techniques across different spirit categories, offering endless possibilities for innovative and exciting drinks.

Who Can Smoke a Cocktail?

Anyone can start their smoking journey as soon as possible. One does not need to be a professional bartender to start curating. The first step is to purchase a reliable smoker. A safe and reliable smoker we recommend the "Foghat". The Foghat exists with a metal mesh that keeps fuel from sparking out and ruining your counters. Luckily, the Foghat brand extends into a variety of fuel flavors that guide you to use with drink the brand thinks will fit best with the flavors. This is a perfect smoker for beginners to start their new craft It comes in a convenient kit that has butane, fuel, a torch, and the smoker.

Check it out Here

Start Your Journey Now

In essence, the art of smoking cocktails isn't merely a visual spectacle or a fleeting trend; it's a deliberate and calculated enhancement to the craft of mixology. It's a method that invites enthusiasts to savor the intricacies of flavor, appreciating the marriage of chosen ingredients with the subtle, alluring embrace of smoke. This intentional layering of sensory experiences sets smoking cocktails apart, transforming a simple libation into a dynamic and immersive adventure for the discerning palate. As the trend continues to captivate the world of mixology, the possibilities for creating unforgettable, customized taste experiences through the artful application of smoke remain virtually boundless.

Written by Faith Housley

Smoking Cheese at Home

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Given how popular smoked cheese is, it's surprising more people don't try smoking cheese at home. With a dedicated cheese smoking kit, it couldn't be easier.

The Perfect Cheeseboard

Putting together the perfect cheeseboard, you have to cater for all possible tastes. There'll be soft cheeses and hard cheeses, strong cheeses and mild cheeses, and there will always be at least one smoked cheese. Everyone loves smoked cheese. They're often the first to be finished, but imagine how good it would be if instead of saying 'I'm sorry, that's the last,' you could say, 'Finish it up, I'll smoke some more!'

Smoking Cheese at Home

With a dedicated cheese smoking kit, like the Foghat Smoking Cloche Set, you can easily smoke a piece of cheese - or anything else, including charcuterie - in a few minutes. It will also impress your guests and definitely give them something to talk about. Kits like these come with a chopping or serving board, so you could smoke the entire cheeseboard in one go, if you wanted to try it.

Smoking cheese at home is also going to give you better results. You may not realize it, but the smoked cheese you buy at the store isn't smoked at all. It is infused either with liquid smoke or even a smoke flavoring, to get those results. When you smoke cheese at home you're using natural wood to provide the smoky flavor that people love.

How to Smoke Cheese at Home

Cheese smoking kits work by providing you with a blown-glass cover that fits snugly over the board. A hole in the top of the glass cover allows you to insert a holder with a metal mesh tray in it. Into this you put some flavored smoking fuel, like wood chips or wood shavings, and then you smoke the fuel with a regular kitchen torch. If you already have a torch you can buy the components without a torch, or if you're getting a cheese smoking kit as a gift for someone you can buy the whole kit and caboodle, including the butane.

When you heat the fuel, the smoke swirls down into the glass cover allowing the cheese(s) to soak up the smoky aroma. By using different fuels with different cheeses you can produce original smoked cheeses that you wouldn't find in even the best deli or cheese store.

Which Cheeses to Smoke at Home

The advantage of smoking cheese at home is that you can try any cheese: you're not limited to what you can find in the store. Everyone's tastes are different, and by experimenting you can discover what works best for you. Just as some people love really peaty Scottish whiskies, while others hate them, you can decide what degree of smokiness works best for you. You might find one minute of smoking is enough for you, or you might want to smoke the cheese to the last dying ember.

Do keep a record of the different combinations of type of cheese, type of smoking fuel, and length of smoking time. After all, when you achieve perfection, you want to be able to replicate it.

As to which cheeses to smoke at home, start with fairly plain and inexpensive hard cheeses, like cheddar, gouda, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack. Even the plainest (and cheapest) of cheddars can be transformed when it's infused with smoke. Hard cheeses can stand longer smoking times. Depending on the cheese and how you cut it, the smoke may not permeate all the way to the center, giving you a great combination of smokiness and natural flavor. Once you start to master the technique of smoking cheeses at home, you can move on to try more expensive varieties.

Smoking Soft Cheeses at Home

By their very nature, soft cheeses will soak up more smoke than hard cheeses, and for that reason you'll want to start with a shorter smoking time. Doesn't the very thought of a Smoked Brie make your mouth water, though?

Couldn't I Just Smoke Cheese on the BBQ?

Yes, you can, though softer cheeses can make a heck of a mess. It's far better to cold smoke them direct on the cheeseboard or other wooden platter.

What Flavors Can You Use to Smoke Cheese?

To start with, play safe and use the types of flavor that cheesemakers use to smoke their cheeses with: apple, cherry, maple, and nutty flavors. Later you can move on and get more experimental, using flavors such as mesquite, bourbon, or sherry. The best woods are usually those that come from fruit or nut trees.

Two Final Tips on Smoking Cheese at Home

1) If you can, let the cheese rest for up to three days after smoking. Wrap it in cheese paper and keep it in the fridge. That way the smoke has more chance to permeate the cheese. Take it out and let it get to room temperature before serving.

2) If you're preparing a cheeseboard, cut some cheeses in half and only smoke half of each one. That way you can compare the taste of the smoked and unsmoked versions. Also, guests still have a wide choice whether they like or dislike smoked cheeses. 

by Mike Gerrard

Is Tequila Stronger than Vodka?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Is tequila stronger than vodka is a question people often ask, as tequila is thought of as a stronger spirit while vodka is seen as a drink for beginners.

The answer to the question of whether tequila is stronger than vodka is that it depends. No one spirit is automatically stronger than another spirit in every situation. Most tequilas and vodkas will be the same strength, that is the accepted standard for the majority of spirits of 40% ABV, or 80 proof.

Why Are Most Spirits 80 Proof?

Spirits don't have to be 80 proof, although in the USA this is the minimum alcohol level allowed by law for spirits. You will find some spirits, like flavored vodkas or low-calorie spirits that are less than 80 proof, but they have to be clear about it. 80 proof just happens to be a figure that was a historic convention, but is also one that most spirits simply taste best at. Another factor is that alcohol is taxed according to its strength, so 80 proof spirits pay the least tax and therefore end up cheaper on the shelves and more profitable to make.

So, Is Tequila Stronger than Vodka?

The overwhelming majority of tequilas and vodkas are both bottled at 80 proof. This means that they all have exactly the same amount of alcohol in them. The alcohol is what gives you a headache and a hangover, if you drink too much. All things being equal, tequila can't give you a worse hangover than vodka, which is something people often claim. Drink the same amount of the same strength tequila and vodka - on different nights, of course! - and you will get the exact same degree of hangover, subject to how much water you might drink or how much food you might eat as well.

However, not all things are equal in the world of distilling. Whether you're distilling from potatoes or from agave plants, the part of the spirit you want is known as the heart. This is the good quality tasty stuff. What you don't want is the heads and the tails - the spirit that comes off first, and the spirit that comes off last. This is inferior quality and really will give you the worst headaches and hangover you've ever had. Too much of it and you can go blind or even die.

Getting rid of the heads and the tails costs time and money, but if you want to make the best-tasting spirits then you do it. If, on the other hand, you want to make the cheapest spirits you might care a little less about only going for the heart. Now, if your first experience of drinking tequila was in a bar in Cancun on Spring Break, and in the bar with the cheapest shots at that, do you think you were drinking good-quality tequila? Is it surprising it gave you a monumental hangover?

When Is Tequila Stronger than Vodka?

The only way that tequila is stronger than vodka is if you're comparing, say, a 90 proof tequila with an 80 proof vodka. Then you can definitely say that the tequila is 12% stronger than the vodka.

By and large, there are more examples of strong tequilas than strong vodkas. Vodka has been made at 80 proof for centuries, and though there are stronger vodkas around, it takes a lot of work to make them taste good too. Taking the same vodka and bottling it at more than 80 proof isn't automatically going to make it a better vodka, only a stronger one. Make it too strong and while it might give your cocktails a kick you wouldn't want to sip it neat or on the rocks.

Tequila is a whole other matter, though. Silver or blanco tequila is unaged tequila and is the agave equivalent of vodka, and almost always bottled at 80 proof. With tequilas that are aged in barrels, more complex flavors start to develop, and the more chances there are for distillers to experiment to see what tequilas they can produce. To understand this more, you might want to experiment at home by aging your own blanco tequilas for different lengths of time.

Variations include the type of barrel used, the length of time the spirit spends in the barrel, the blending of tequilas, and the strength you bottle them at. A distiller might sample a particular tequila at different strengths and decide that the 90 proof tastes better than the 80 proof. As vodka by its nature is unaged it isn't experimented upon like this. Once you start to age vodka, you're immediately turning it into another spirit, from Coconut Rum to Mexican Corn Whiskey.

The bottom line, to answer the question, is that tequila is not stronger than vodka automatically, but you're more likely to come across stronger tequilas than stronger vodkas.

How to Make a Smoky Negroni?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

There are several ways to make a Smoky Negroni including using a smoked gin, smoked ice cubes, or smoking the Negroni with a dedicated cocktail smoking kit.

The Negroni is one of the best smoked cocktails, and it's good to know how to make a Smoky Negroni. It's easy to do, and producing a smoky take on one of the world's most popular cocktails will surprise your guests. You'd better be prepared to make seconds, though.

What Is a Negroni?

A Negroni is an Italian cocktail that was probably first made in Florence in 1919 at the request of the grandly-named French General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni. It's a simple cocktail recipe to remember: one part gin, one part sweet red vermouth, and one part Campari. Garnish it with a slice of orange peel and you're done. It's one of those cocktails that, if a guest asks you for one, you don't need to go to the bookshelves or the internet to look up the recipe. You just need to be sure to have the ingredients on hand. But how do you make a Smoky Negroni?

Buying Smoked Gin

One way to make a Smoky Negroni is to use a smoked gin instead of your regular gin. Normally a London Dry Gin with its strong juniper flavors works best in a Negroni. Because a Negroni does only have three ingredients, changing any one of them can make a big difference to the overall result. It may take a few experiments till you perfect making your Smoky Negroni.

In the USA, The New York Craft Spirits Distillery makes ESP Smoked Gin using Applewood- smoked juniper berries, which should add several layers of flavor to your standard Negroni. In the UK you can find a Smoked Rosemary Gin made by That Boutique-y Gin Company, which should also work well.

Smoke Your Own Gin

As there aren't too many smoked gins on the market, it will be easier and cheaper to try smoking your own gin. One advantage here is that you can use the same recipe and gin as you do for a standard Negroni, but you're simply adding smoke to the gin rather than altering the recipe by using a different gin with a different flavor profile.

You can smoke your own gin by using a dedicated cocktail smoking kit. Although these are intended for smoking the finished cocktail, they can also be used for smoking pure spirits. Put several measures of your regular London Dry Gin in a glass and smoke the gin before making the Negroni. Try using the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel. A Negroni already has a lot of flavors swirling around in there, so a simpler smoking fuel will be better.

If you're the kind of person who's a bit of a control freak then you might even want to go the whole hog and make your own gin from scratch. After all, gin is simply flavored vodka, which is the kind of remark you make if you want to annoy a gin distiller. It's true, though. Gin starts off as a neutral spirit, i.e. vodka, and the botanicals including juniper are then infused into it. You can achieve the same results by using an inexpensive Gin Essence which, for a few dollars, allows you to turn vodka into gin. It isn't cheating as many gin distillers simply buy in their cheap neutral spirit (they don't like to call it vodka, but it is) and add their botanicals. You can then smoke the gin, as above.

Use a Cocktail Smoking Kit

Alternatively you can make your Negroni absolutely as normal, and simply smoke the end result with the smoking kit. Again, try starting with a lighter smoking fuel like the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel, before experimenting with anything stronger.

Use Smoked Ice Cubes

Another way to turn a Negroni into a Smoky Negroni is to use smoked ice cubes. This way the smoky flavor slowly builds up as the ice cubes melt, and when it gets to the level you think is perfect you can take the smoky ice cubes out and replace them with regular ones.

How do you smoke ice cubes? For this you'll need the Foghat Smoking Cloche Set, which gives you a bigger surface area to smoke than the cocktail smoker does. Place a tray of ice cubes on the cutting board, and use the smallest ice cubes that you have. Smoke the ice cubes until they melt, and then refreeze them. You'll get better results if you smoke ice cubes rather than smoke an ice cube tray filled with water, as the smoke molecules stick to the ice more easily than they would penetrate the water.

You needn't limit this to Negronis, of course. If you keep a tray of smoked ice cubes in the freezer, you can use them with any whiskey cocktail, or a Margarita, to gradually create a smoky version of the cocktail as you drink it.

Use Smoked Cocktail Glasses

If you want to go for broke with the smoking, you can also use the Foghat Smoking Cloche Set to smoke your cocktail glasses just before you make your Negronis. Combine this with smoked ice cubes and a regular Negroni cocktail, and you also have a Smoky Negroni. Use a smoked gin as well and you'll have an Ultra Smoky Negroni. That may be going a little too far, but at least you now know how to make a Smoky Negroni several different ways.

by Mike Gerrard

Who Invented the Barrel?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Who invented the barrel isn't known for sure but the history of this remarkable object goes back at least to the time of the Ancient Egyptians.

The humble barrel is such a commonplace object that it's easy to take it for granted, but some historians have compared the invention of the barrel to the invention of the wheel. Without barrels to store food and fresh water for hundreds of crew over hundreds of days, long sea voyages by explorers like Captain Cook and Christopher Columbus would simply not have been possible.

Barrels made international trade easier, and have been used for storing liquids, food, oil, gunpowder, nails, coins, and even dead bodies. The British hero Lord Nelson, who was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, was taken back to his home country preserved in a barrel of brandy or rum.

Who invented the barrel?

What's remarkable about the barrel, even more so than the wheel, is that it's been around for about 5,000 years virtually unchanged. The only modern adaptation has been to use metal hoops instead of wooden ones to hold the barrel's staves together. 

The earliest depiction of a barrel is on the walls of the tomb of an Egyptian official who lived in about the 3rd millennium BC. His tomb shows a barrel, which was probably made from palm wood and held together by wooden hoops. It was being used to measure grain of some kind, which is another key use of a barrel: to provide standard measures. Oil is still measured in barrels, as oil was stored and measured in whiskey barrels when oil fields were discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859.

So we know that barrels were around in the 3rd millennium BC, but it's likely they were invented several hundred years before that. There was a thriving wine industry in Egypt's Nile Delta by about 3,000 BC, and other wall paintings show barrels holding grapes, so it's probable that barrels were in common use back then.

Barrels conquer the world

While we may not know for sure who invented the barrel, we do know that the Romans helped to spread the use of barrels around the world. By the time the Romans conquered Egypt in 30BC, barrels were being used in both countries. The Romans had found even more uses for them. They turned them into weapons of war by filling them with burning pitch and firing them at their enemy using giant catapults. It was a bull's-eye if one landed on the building that held the enemy's store of gunpowder... being held in barrels, of course.

Roman armies carried some empty barrels with them when they traveled, so that they could be tied together to create improvised bridges for crossing rivers. They also used them to line wells to keep the water clean.

The Creation of Cooperages

According to the Roman historian and author Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century AD, the first European people to use barrels widely, and to build cooperages, was a Celtic group called the Gauls, living in what is now the French Alps. The usage of barrels was now becoming more sophisticated, too. Cooperages were springing up in towns and villages in southern Europe, and these were often one-man businesses with the cooper's skills being passed from father to son.

Different coopers began to specialize in different types of barrel, as demand increased. The easiest kind to make were those for storing grain and other solid items, as they didn't need to be waterproof. They did, however, need to be tight enough to keep mice and bugs out. Grain had previously been stored in hessian sacks, which were no barrier to mice and rats.

Other coopers specialized in making watertight barrels, for keeping wine and water in. This was a pivotal time in the coopering industry. Coopers where divided into "Dry Coopers" making barrels for grains or other products, and "Wet Coopers" who made barrels to hold liquids. The skills of distillation hadn't yet arrived, so no-one knew yet that barrels would add flavors when spirits were stored in them for long periods. Yet another kind of cooper would make what were called simply large barrels, which was an even harder skill to master.

A further virtue of the barrel, people discovered, was that they could be dismantled and rebuilt, as necessary. You could transport goods in them on a long sea voyage, then take apart any that weren't needed for the return journey. Even today, used American white oak bourbon barrels are taken in pieces for shipping to Scotland for use in the whisky industry, with the staves numbered to make re-assembly easier.

So, we may not know for sure who invented the barrel, but the world is glad that they did!

by Mike Gerrard

What is Charcuterie?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Charcuterie is a French word for cooked meats usually served as an appetizer with cheeses and the tastes can be enhanced by smoking the meats and cheeses first.

Meaning of the Word 'Charcuterie'

The word charcuterie derives from two separate French words, chair, meaning flesh, and cuit, which means cooked. It's been around since at least the 15th century, and the word was originally chaircuiterie, but it's changed slightly over the years. It was a way of preserving meats before the days of refrigeration.

Back then a charcuterie usually meant a pork butcher's shop, as well as the cooked meats that you could buy there. The person who sold the meat was a charcutier. Pork was the main meat that was widely sold because beef was an expensive treat, and chickens were something that many peasants kept for themselves for both eggs and meat.

Foghat Smoked Charcuterie Board with Foghat Cloche & Foghat Cocktail Smoker

What is Charcuterie Today?

The most common cooked meats from the pig are ham, sausages, and bacon, although if serving or ordering a charcuterie it can also include patés and terrines, and these days it won't be confined to pork meat. You'll probably find things like chicken paté and cheeses served alongside the meats on a plate of charcuterie.

Charcuterie Around the World

Although the idea of charcuterie originated in France, the notion has spread around the world and has been adapted into different cultures. In France's neighbor, Italy, it has become antipasto or antipasti, both meaning 'before the pasta'. Antipasto is the singular, referring to the whole plate, and antipasti is the plural, meaning the dishes on the plate. As well as cooked meats, in Italy it's likely to include things like olives, sardines, anchovies, cheeses, and vegetables.

In the UK the meal has adapted into a ploughman's lunch, which is a movable feast. It will include cold meats but also cheeses, pies, a slice or two of bread, pickles, boiled eggs, salad, or any combination of these, along with appropriate condiments like mustard. The original idea was that it was whatever a farm worker like a ploughman could put in his bag and eat easily with his hands at lunchtime.

In the USA the dish is referred to as either charcuterie or just a simple meat and cheese plate, served with bread or crackers and condiments like mustard. You should also include some fruit and vegetables, for vegetarian and vegan guests.

What to Drink with Charcuterie

As charcuterie originated in France, the majority of people would have drunk the local wine. It's traditional to pair red wine with meats, and a merlot or pinot noir would certainly go well. However, charcuterie is very adaptable and because of the salty nature of some of the dishes, you can also try a crisp white wine or even a sparkling wine, like prosecco.

In the UK it's traditional to drink beer with your ploughman's lunch, as that's what workers would have drunk. It was common then for people, even children, to drink weak beer rather than water, as it was less likely to be contaminated. In the USA you can drink beer or wine, or anything else.

How to Serve Charcuterie

Charcuterie is a dish meant for sharing, so you'll need a large serving board to make sure there's enough for everyone. You can serve charcuterie up as individual dishes for people if you like, and these can look good, but it's much more fun to give people a small empty plate and for everyone to dip in and share from the main board.

You can use a plain and simple cheese board for your charcuterie, but if you enjoy entertaining or want to impress someone special, then use a special serving board. You can find wine-themed charcuterie boards, plain charcuterie boards, or even bourbon-themed boards. Yes, you can serve bourbon with charcuterie. A sweeter wheaty bourbon is the perfect match for salty hams and bacon. If you can casually mention that you made your own wheated bourbon, so much the better!

Two Great Ways to Improve Your Charcuterie Board

There are two more ways you can make your charcuterie stand out from the crowd, apart from only using the best of ingredients, of course. The first way is visual: the presentation. When you bring your board to the table you want your guests to say: 'Oh, that looks good!' To find some inspiration look at how other people have done it on somewhere like Pinterest.

The second way to improve your charcuterie board will have your guests asking for it next time they come, and that is by smoking some of the meats and cheeses. Who doesn't like smoked hams or smoked cheeses? And what could be more fun than to smoke your own using something like this Foghat Smoking Cloche Set?

Foghat Smoking Cloche Set with the Foghat Cocktail Smoker

The Foghat actually comes with a charcuterie board, which tells you what it's designed to do. With one of these devices, the sky's the limit with what you can do to improve the meats and cheeses you serve. You don't want to overdo it and smoke everything in sight, but put  a couple of smoked cheeses and a couple of smoked meats on your board and you'll probably find they're the first to get finished.

The great thing about this is that you can do it ahead of time, and also you're only limited in what you can do by your imagination. Suppose, for example, you do have some bourbon-loving friends coming over for dinner, and you want to serve some shots of bourbon or a bourbon cocktail with your charcuterie. What better than to smoke some salami or Swiss cheese with some Bourbon Resurrection Smoking Fuel? Try taking a plain cheese like cheddar or mozzarella and give it the treatment with something like Sweet Texas Mesquite Smoking Fuel. Or make your own Hickory Smoked Cheddar.

So now you know not only what charcuterie is, but how to take your own charcuterie board to the next level.

Foghat Smoked Charcuterie Set with Foghat Cocktail Smokerby Mike Gerrard

What Are the Best Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

What are the best barrel-aged cocktails, how long should you age them, and which barrels are best for barrel-aging cocktails?

The best barrel-aged cocktails really add another dimension to your favorite cocktails. Why bother with barrel-aging cocktails? Well, the flavors and aromas that cocktails draw from contact with wooden barrels really intensifies everything about them.

Barrel-aging cocktails is a skill that has to be learned, but once you know a few basic rules it will take your cocktail-making skills to the next level, whether you're a professional mixologist or a home bartender.

What Are the Best Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

You can't simply pour any cocktail into a barrel and hope for good results, though. An obvious example is a cocktail that uses fresh fruit juice, like a Tequila Sunrise. The juice will probably go off before there's been any noticeable change in the flavor of the cocktail. Likewise tonic water, which will go flat in the barrel.

You should also avoid cocktails that use sweet liqueurs, or other sweet ingredients. The more sugar you put in the barrel, the easier it is for bacteria to develop. Avoid honey, too, which will crystalize. If your cocktail recipe needs some sweetness, you might be able to get away with maple syrup, if you don't age it for too long.

Making a Barrel-Aged Manhattan

The best barrel-aged cocktails are those that rely heavily on the spirit itself. A good cocktail to try as your first barrel-aged cocktail is the Manhattan. This uses whiskey (usually rye), vermouth, and bitters. Don't use an expensive whiskey to begin with, either. Use cheaper brands until you've perfected the process.

You do have to be careful using bitters, as they can start to take over if left too long. You can always barrel-age the whiskey and vermouth, and then add the bitters to each glass afterwards, as normal.


5 parts rye whiskey

2 parts sweet red vermouth

Dash of Angostura bitters for each single cocktail measure


Making a Barrel-Aged Negroni

A Negroni is also a good candidate for barrel-aging, consisting as it does of gin, vermouth, and Campari. Remember that Campari is a bitters, so don't let it dominate the taste as it ages.


3 parts gin

3 parts sweet red vermouth

3 parts Campari


Making a Barrel-Aged Boulevardier

A Boulevardier is basically a Negroni but with a different ratio of ingredients and usually rye whiskey or bourbon instead of gin. Remember to take care with the Campari.


1.5 parts whiskey

1 part sweet red vermouth

1 part Campari


Making a Barrel-Aged Martini

A simple Martini can be really enhanced by barrel-aging, and will have your friends or customers saying 'This is an amazing Martini! How did you do that?'


6 parts gin

1 part dry vermouth

Which Barrels Are Best for Barrel-Aged Cocktails?

When it comes to barrel-aging cocktails at home or in the commercial bar, smaller barrels are better. There are two main reasons for this. One is that the smaller the barrel, the more the cocktail comes in contact with the wood, and the quicker the process takes. For a commercial bar this means a faster turnover.

The other reason is that you are inevitably experimenting at first, and if anything goes badly wrong, you don't want to waste too much good alcohol. The ideal barrels for aging cocktails are from 1-3 liters, with 2 liters probably being the optimum size.

The best barrels for aging cocktails are American oak barrels, which have had a light char. Charring means more flavors being drawn from the barrel and into the cocktail. One point to remember is that with each aging process you are extracting flavors from the wood. If your first batch reaches perfection in three weeks, your next batch of the same cocktail may take a few days longer.

Where Should You Keep Your Barrel?

Small barrels that are aging cocktails do look really good whether in a commercial bar or in a home bar, but you should ideally store them out of the light. Extreme changes in heat and humidity will also detract from the end result. If you have a cellar or a basement, use it. There's a reason distilleries and wineries store their precious stocks in cellars!

How Long Should You Barrel-Age a Cocktail?

There's no definitive answer as it depends what you're aging, how big a barrel you're using, and what your own taste preferences are. However, you're probably looking at anything from 1-4 weeks, perhaps even longer. You shouldn't disturb the barrel too often, so check on progress by tasting the cocktail about once a week.

What you should do, when you make up your big batch of the cocktail, is to make more than will fit in your barrel. You should keep an unaged batch standing by as a kind of control group, so that you can taste the unaged and the aged versions side-by-side to note the difference.

This pretty much tells you what the best barrel-aged cocktails are, and how to go about making them. Cheers!

by Mike Gerrard

What Are the Best Smoky Cocktails?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

The best smoked cocktails can be made in various ways, with a smoky whiskey or mezcal instead of a non-smoky spirit or by using a universal cocktail smoking kit.

Any answer to  the question of what are the best smoky cocktails will inevitably focus on whiskey-based cocktail recipes. Many of them have a smokiness about them already, but by switching to a peaty Islay Scottish whisky, for example, or by using a smoky spirit like mezcal, the lovely smoky aroma and flavor can be ramped up a notch, the way many people like it.

Other non-whiskey cocktails can also benefit by being given the smoky treatment, as we found recently with the Smoky Margarita. You can smoke this up either by using mezcal instead of tequila, or by sticking with tequila and using a cocktail smoking kit. You can also try smoking rum cocktails. There are a few smoky rums around, like Mount Gay's The Peat Smoke Expression, which is finished in peated whisky casks from Scotland, though at around $250 a bottle it's not something you want to risk experimenting with. There are cheaper and safer ways.

What Are the Best Smoky Cocktails?

The best smoky cocktails are undoubtedly the classic whiskey cocktails, like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan, the Whiskey Sour, the Sazerac, and the Mint Julep. In each case, take the classic recipe and either substitute a peated smoky Scottish whisky for the standard whisky, or get out your Cocktail Smoking Kit.

The kit is usually the better option. Changing the whiskey in the recipe also makes other flavor changes to the end result, whereas the smoking kit uses the traditional recipe and simply infuses smoke into it, so you genuinely get a smoky version of the cocktail. However, you should also think beyond the whiskey cocktails, to really appreciate the effect that smoking cocktails can have.

How to Make a Smoky Martini

You might think it's going to be trickier to turn a classic Gin Martini into a smoky cocktail, but it isn't. To adapt the recipe, look for a smoky gin. There are one or two around, including ESP Smoked Gin from a distillery in New York.

By far the best way is to infuse the gin with smoke, and this is where a Cocktail Smoking Kit really comes into its own, both for financial and flavor reasons. A smoked gin might cost you $40 or so, and when it's gone, it's gone. If you get a taste for a Smoky Martini, it makes more sense to invest $70 in your own kit and use it with a London Dry Gin and some inexpensive Vermouth Oak Roast Smoking Fuel or Old Towne Gin Smoking Fuel. Both are designed with gin cocktails in mind.

Take your classic Gin Martini recipe of six parts gin to one part dry vermouth. Make enough for at least two cocktails and put the mixture not into a cocktail glass but into a tall glass. Take your cocktail glasses and either put them in the freezer or fill them with ice water and put them in the fridge while you smoke the cocktail.

Put the shavings in the smoker and put the smoker over the tall glass. Smoke the shavings for about three minutes and then remove the smoker, stir the martini to really get the smoky flavor infused into the gin. Pour the Smoky Martinis into the chilled glasses and enjoy.

How to Make a Smoky Negroni

To make a Smoky Negroni you have the same options as for a Smoky Martini - you either use a smoked gin or you use a cocktail smoking kit. The kit is again the better choice for the same reasons, but in this case perhaps use the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel.  With its vermouth, campari, and orange-peel garnish, the Negroni already has a lot going on in it flavor-wise so a simpler smoking fuel will be better.

by Mike Gerrard

How to Make a Smoky Manhattan?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

To make a Smoky Manhattan whiskey cocktail you can try using a smoky whiskey, like a peaty whisky from Islay in Scotland, or use a Foghat Cocktail Smoker.

The Manhattan is one of the world's classic whiskey cocktails, with an interesting if uncertain history [insert link] behind it. It's a drink that's been around for over 150 years, so it's clearly here to stay. When you've tried a few slight variations on the classic recipe (bourbon instead of rye whiskey, say), you might want to take the recipe to the next level and try to make a Smoky Manhattan.

How to Make a Smoky Manhattan the Easy Way

There may be a classic recipe for the Manhattan (5 cl rye, 2 cl sweet red vermouth, dash of Angostura bitters) but there's no classic recipe for the Smoky Manhattan as it can be made in several different ways.

One way to make a Smoky Manhattan is quite easy. Instead of rye whiskey, use a smoky whiskey. And the easiest way to do that is choose a whisky from the island of Islay in Scotland, whose distilleries are noted for their smoky and peaty aromas and flavors. You're spoiled for choice. Try Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, or an Ardbeg - the Ardbeg Wee Beastie is one we really enjoyed recently.

If you're not a fan of peaty scotches, then you could perhaps try a 50/50 mix of scotch and bourbon to tone down the smoky nature of the Manhattan. It's also a good way to slowly acquire a taste for peaty drinks, as these are, after all, amongst some of the greatest whiskies made. It's a shame to miss out on enjoying them because you've taken one sip of a really peaty whisky and didn't like it. It can be an acquired taste but it's a taste well worth acquiring.

Making a Smoky Manhattan Another Way

There are other ways to adapt the basic recipe to provide you with a smoky cocktail. You could add a dash of paprika or chipotle powder for that smoky taste - but don't go wild! If you look around online you can also find chipotle bitters, which you could use instead of the Angostura bitters.

Then, although it's no longer strictly a Manhattan, you could substitute the smoky Mexican spirit mezcal for the rye whiskey. You'd have something you might call a Mexihattan.

The Best Way to Make a Smoky Manhattan

One final way to make a Smoky Manhattan is arguably the most authentic way, as you still use the original classic recipe. None of your nit-picking friends can argue and say, 'Well it's not really a Manhattan.

Take the original recipe given above, and scale it up for however many drinks you want to make. Put all the ingredients in one suitably-sized glass, and mix them thoroughly. Use a Foghat Cocktail Smoker to infuse the Manhattan with smoke. Try the Whiskey Barrel Oak Smoking Fuel, or go for broke and use the Peat Bog Fog for a truly smoky result.

Let the glass rest for three minutes. Swirl the cocktail around again with a cocktail spoon to thoroughly mix the ingredients, including the smoke. Pour over ice in a cocktail glass or a lowball glass. Savor the aromas and sip. Now that's the best way to make a Smoky Manhattan!

by Mike Gerrard

How Do You Make Peach Moonshine from Scratch?

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Can you make Peach Moonshine from scratch, and if so then how do you do it and what is the best and easiest way to make Peach Moonshine?

If you want to make peach moonshine from scratch then you certainly can. Well, almost from scratch as if you want to make your own moonshine you should first read our post on Is It Legal to Make Whiskey at Home? [insert link] The same laws apply to making moonshine at home, or any other kind of spirit.

What Is Moonshine?

Firstly, what is moonshine anyway? It isn't just an American term for hooch made in the backwoods of Appalachia. Countries all around the world have their equivalent of alcohol that's been distilled at home using local ingredients.

Making moonshine is usually illegal, though this doesn't stop it happening widely, particularly in traditionally poor rural areas. In the past, even if legal alcohol was available, not everyone could afford to buy it, so it's only natural some people would try their hand at making their own. After all, the skills of distilling have been around for a few thousand years.

In Ireland, as one well-known example, they call it poteen (pronounced pocheen) and it's often made from potatoes, the country's most widely-grown crop. In Greece they call it raki or tsipouro, and it's made from what's left of the grapes after the winemakers have finished with them. In the USA it's called moonshine and often made from corn.

What Is Peach Moonshine?

If peaches are grown widely, as they are in parts of the USA and Southern Europe, for example, then you can make moonshine from them. They provide their own sugar, to help the fermentation process. In the USA it's called peach moonshine while in other countries it might be called peach brandy or peach schnapps.

The main concern is a financial one. Peaches usually fetch a high price, so it's more profitable for the grower to sell them than to make moonshine from them. However, there will always be some peaches that are imperfect, so why throw them out when you can make perfectly good liquor from them?

Peach Moonshine Recipes

There are numerous recipes online for making peach moonshine, and they don't all involve using a peach brandy or peach schnapps as the base spirit. Some use white spirit, some blend white spirit with peach juice.

Some recipes use a grain alcohol called Everclear, produced by Luxco, and available at differing strengths according to your needs: 60%, 75.5%, 94.5% and 95% ABC (120, 151, 189 and 190 proof). It's potent stuff but remember that if you make a spirit that's too strong for you, you can always dilute it later with pure filtered water down to your preferred strength. After all, that's what distillers do unless they're making a cask strength spirit.

The Best Way to Make Peach Moonshine from Scratch

Some of the recipes for peach moonshine are quite complicated and involve tracking down several ingredients and then following complex instructions. You also often have to wait several days for the peach moonshine to be ready. The quickest, easiest and best way to make peach moonshine from scratch is with a Moonshine Magic moonshine making kit.

The Moonshine Making Kit is perfectly legal as you have to provide the base spirit. The kits come with a reusable 1-liter ceramic moonshine jar, and the essence for making three distinct moonshine flavors, including peach. The Peach Essence includes natural extracts, essences, and oils, and some caramel color of the kind often used by distilleries to add a little color to whiskies, rums, and other spirits. (They don't usually shout about it, but they do it.)

For the spirits, you can use Everclear or an inexpensive plain vodka. Costco sells vodka that is both cheap and better-than-average bottom-shelf vodka. Later (the moonshine jar is endlessly re-usable) you can experiment and try a corn or rye-based whiskey or bourbon. Only use small amounts of this at first, and you may want to mix it with some vodka initially, so as not to overpower the peach flavor, which is after all what you're looking for. This is by far the best and quickest way to make peach moonshine from scratch.

by Mike Gerrard