A clear glass filled with liquid and an orange rind surrounded by smoke.

Bar Skills: How To Make A Cocktail Smoke

Explore the exciting art of smoking cocktails to add an aromatic edge and take your drinks to the next level.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Add Visual and Aromatic Wow-Factor

Evoking the primal and the profound, the art of smoking cocktails offers a multisensory experience, wrapping drinkers in evocative aromas of woods and spices.  

When used effectively, smoking can strike an effective balance between adding creative flair to cocktails while heightening your drinks' flavours.   

Uncover the misty realm of smoked cocktails and explore some of the techniques, equipment and best practices to create smoked cocktails that will wow your guests. 

The Mechanics Of Smoking Cocktails

You have a lot of options when it comes to adding a smoky scent to your drinks. This is great, as it allows creativity to showcase your style as a bartender. Understand the different components of smoking cocktails to use them effectively in your drink creation.   

  1. Wood and Plant Choices: From hickory to cherry wood, rosemary to cinnamon, what you choose to smoke hugely influences the final aroma produced. Carefully consider what flavours complement the profile of your drink.  
  2. Equipment Options: You have a handful of options depending on how you want to smoke your ingredients. 
    1. Smoking Guns: Handheld vacuum that holds wood chips. These chips are then lit on fire with a lighter or blow torch, with the vacuum pulling the ensuing smoke through a hose and out of the end nozzle. 
    2. A blowtorch and a heavy-duty surface (always adhering to health and safety). 
  3. Smoking Method: There are two main ways you can incorporate the smoke to your final drinks
    1. Cloche Method: Encasing a drink under a glass dome filled with smoke, imparting aroma to the cocktail and captivating the drinker with a visual spectacle. 
    2. Smoke-Infused Spirits: Pre-smoking spirits to imbue them with a lasting smoky essence, offering consistency and depth. 

The smoking element

Once you have your equipment and drink set up, decide on what element of your drink to smoke, whether it's the liquid itself, the serving vessel, or garnish, as well as how much smoke to inject into your drink.   

These decisions can make or break your drink.  

A lighter style cocktail like a Martini may only need a gesture from a smoked olive to have an effect, whilst other drinks like a Penicillin or Bloody Mary can probably hold up to having the entire drink marinate in an applewood smoke-filled box for twenty or thirty seconds.   

Trial and error is key to mastering the art of smoking cocktails

To get the most out of smoking, elite bartenders will follow best practices to ensure a quality smoke infusion. Consider these tips to offer guests the finest smoked cocktails at your venue.   

  • Cold Smoking: Exposing the cocktail to smoke without heat retains the drink's temperature while infusing flavour. 
  • Duration Matters: The longer a drink is exposed to smoke, the deeper the infusion. It's essential to strike a balance to avoid overpowering the drink. 
  • Glassware Considerations: Wide-brimmed glasses allow the smoke aroma to be more pronounced, enhancing the drinker's experience. 
  • Safety: Ensure adequate ventilation when smoking and always handle flammable materials with care. Take care to be aware of any toxicity that could be released from some ingredients by heating or smoking. 

Cocktail Smoking Tutorial

Watch now for a step-by-step guide on how to smoke your own cocktails. Follow along to perfect the technique and build confidence so that you can offer this exciting experience to your guests. 

Using Smoke in Modern Bartending

Some of the best bartenders at the top of their game use smoke in an array of interesting ways to enhance not only their cocktails but also the overall experience of their venues. Incorporate some of these methods to help your venue stand out.

  • Interactive Experiences: Some establishments allow patrons to select their preferred smoking materials, making it a bespoke experience.
  • Themed Nights: Dedicated smoky evenings where every cocktail tells a smouldering tale.
  • Smoke Bubbles: From varying sizes to bubbles within bubbles, the art is ever evolving, each iteration more enchanting than the last.

Smoke bubbles are one interesting innovation that’s changing the way bars offer smoked cocktails. Filled with fragrant smoke, these bubbles burst upon contact, releasing aromatics that enhance the drink's profile, and provide an enchanting sensory experience.

Follow these steps to effectively use smoke bubbles and position your bar as a cutting-edge venue.

  1. Creating the Bubble: Using an edible bubble formula (there are a range of options available including home-made ones), bubbles are formed and filled with smoke using a straw or smoking gun.
  2. Serving: The bubbles can either float atop the drink or be presented alongside, waiting to be burst by the intrigued drinker.
  3. Pairing: The smoke within the bubble should complement the cocktail's flavour profile, be it the rich intensity of oak or the delicate touch of lavender.

Smoking is an exciting part of cocktail creation. Become a member of Diageo Bar Academy to find out other ways to make your drinks more special and unique.

Key Takeaways

  • Smoking cocktails enhances flavours and aromas as well as creating ambience and intrigue. 
  • Not all drinks can be enhanced by smoking of cocktails; smoke dark and heady cocktails like whisky, brandy or rum. 
  • A smoking gun is the easiest and most professional way to create smoking cocktails. 
  • Decide on whether to smoke the liquid, serving vessel or garnish. 
  • The core of mastering the art of smoking cocktails is trial and error, creativity, and common sense. 

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