If you enjoy those smoky cocktails you can get at bars, but just can’t seem to nail the same flavor at home, this guide is for you.
See, cocktail smoking involves exposing a cocktail, its components, or just the drinking glass to flavorful smoke to infuse it with smoky notes. As wood burns, its smoke is directed into a chilled glass, where its aromatic molecules dissolve in the moisture on the sides of the glass. Then, when a cocktail is poured into the smoke-rinsed glass, the smoke molecules mix with the drink bringing out unique notes and changing the depth and flavor of your drink.
While you can use just about any hardwood, not all woods create the same flavor. Today we’re diving into the best woods for smoked cocktails.
What are the best woods for smoked cocktails?
There are many kinds of wood that you can use to smoke cocktails. Hardwoods like cherry, hickory, pecan, and oak are often recommended. Remember, though, that certain drinks work best with specific types of woods, so keep experimenting. The only way to know how a certain type of wood will taste when smoked is to light it up and try it! Experimentation is the key to a great smoked cocktail.
If you’re creating a specific cocktail, smoke several different ingredients till you find one that has the aromatic qualities you need for the drink. Get different types of woods, light them on fire one by one, smell their smoke, and if you like it, smoke-rinse the drinking glass and taste the cocktail. If you enjoy the taste, go ahead and make another!
The best woods and their specific flavors are:
Adding pecan wood to a cocktail gives it a sharp, earthy hint since the wood is known for its intense nutty notes. This is really popular in southern bbq and makes for a really nice addition to whisky cocktails. Try it with your favorite corn whiskey (any Mellow Corn fans out here??) and see how it brings out those nice sweet notes.
American White Oak
Oakwood can be used to create the same notes of flavor that make bourbons taste so good – in fact, charred oak is exactly what gives bourbon its flavor and color. It accentuates the notes of charred wood in drinks. You can use it to smoke just about any drink resulting in a richer smoky flavor than black cherry and apple, though weaker than hickory. You can achieve various delicious finishes by combining oak with any of the three kinds of wood, too.
It has a sweet, fruity scent, similar to applewood. Black Cherry usually leaves a gentle smoke flavor with a soft mahogany note, making it an excellent choice with rye or bourbon. Cherry is very versatile and can be used on just about any drink, but feel free to experiment and see what spirits it adds the best flavor to.
Cedar is not hardwood, but it can also be used to smoke cocktails. Combined with peated whiskey, this makes drinks taste like the smell of a cigar box. Try using the cedar-smoked glass to enjoy a Manhattan or scotch cocktail. Also, try combining Rob Roy or Penicillin with cedar and use it to smoke your drinks.
Maple emits a mellow, sweet scent and gives drinks a sweet, smoky flavor. The wood is heavy and light in color. Use this wood to smoke your bourbon as well. Maple is another versatile wood for smoking cocktails, and can add a little flair to just about any drink!
BBQ enthusiasts like using hickory wood to smoke their food, but you can also smoke your drinks with it. Its smokey taste is stronger than that of fruitwoods. The smoky, spicy punch of hickory pairs well with an old-fashioned, a Manhattan, or any other drinks that use aged spirits as their base. Use it sparingly or mix it with Applewood or Oak for tropical cocktails, spirituous drinks, and tiki drinks.
Applewood smoke has a gentle, sweet, and fruity profile that pairs well with all liquors and cocktails, making it perfect for beginners. If you’re not big into the flavor of smoked cocktails, but you love the aroma to finish a drink, this is the perfect wood for you. Just smoke a little after your cocktail is already built in its glass and it will reside on top adding a nice smell without much smoky punch on the palette.
Alderwood smoke has the delicate sweetness of other fruit woods and works well with delicate cocktails and spirituous drinks. This is one of the most common woods used for smoking foods, so it should naturally pair well with just about any drink.
The smoke flavor of mesquite is the strongest and most concentrated of all the smoke flavors. Only go for it if you really want an intense smoky flavor. Ideally, it should be paired with spirit-forward cocktails like a Manhattan or a neat bourbon. It can make some amazing drinks, but you’ need to really love that smoky flavor!
Alternatives to Woods
Alternatively, you can use loose-leaf tea, citrus peel, or dried spices to add some variety to your cocktail. Simply replace the wood in your smoker with any of these and see how it opens up a whole new world of possibilities!
- Rosemary: Smoking cocktails with rosemary gives them a rustic, earthy flavor. It pairs particularly well with scotch or gin cocktails.
- Cinnamon: This produces mild sweetness and light smoke that pairs well with bourbon. The cinnamon will accentuate the sweetness of the bourbon while creating a lighter smoke.
- Vanilla beans: This produces sweet and delicate smoke superb for delicate tropical drinks.
- Citrus peels: Works well in any cocktails that are fruitier or use citrus bitters or a citrus garnish
- Corn husks: The corn husks impart a mild sweetness to the bourbon
- Thyme: Thyme has a smoky characteristic that works like magic when paired with scotch
- Coffee beans: Use coffee beans to smoke Irish whiskey and bring out its chocolate or coffee notes. You can even dust the coffee beans with cocoa powder before smoking them
Where can you get these woods?
These chips, chunks, or sawdust can be found at a grocery store, home improvement center, or any store that sells charcoal or grilling equipment. You can also use wood from your carpentry projects as long as it has not been treated. You can also get the woods from the trees in your compound; even if they are still green, they will produce enough smoke for your cocktail.
Some of these woods are also included in the cocktail smoking kits available in the market. The Smokeshow Starter Bundle contains a 4-pack of smoke dust. These smoke dust include Apple, Cherry, Hickory, and Bourbon Barrel Oak. They are packed fresh and full of flavor and aroma. There is no bark or filler in the wood dust (except for the bourbon used to flavor the Oak).
Other things included in the kit are:
- The Smokeshow Cocktail Smoker
- High-performance kitchen torch
- 140ml High Quality Butane
A guide to using the Smokeshow Kit
The Smokeshow Cocktail Smoker is easy to use: mix your cocktail, place the Smokeshow on top, sprinkle smoke dust on the basket, and torch it. Let your drink smoke for 30 seconds, then enjoy!
The Smokeshow Cocktail Smoker Kit has several advantages.
Instead of having to go to the nearest cocktail bar every time you are jonesing for a smoked drink, this portable kit allows you to:
- Make and enjoy bar-quality smoked cocktails at home
- Adds a unique smoky flavor instantly
- Treat your guests to specially flavored drinks
- Try hundreds of different cocktail recipes
- Compatible with all standard rocks, shakers, and mixing glasses
- It has a beautiful and minimalist design
- It can be used thousands of times
- Easy to use
- Fast, reliable, and efficient
- Does not take up a lot of storage space
When it comes to cocktail smoking, wood selection matters. Certain types of woods pair well with certain cocktail flavors. Use the above guide to select the wood to smoke your cocktail. Alternatively, buy the Smokeshow cocktail smoker kit, and you will get everything you need to start unlocking hundreds of cocktail recipes. The kit includes 4-packs of smoke dust (Apple, Hickory, Bourbon Barrel Oak & Cherry) so you can start smoking cocktails right away.