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