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Jack Scrimshire

How Long To Smoke A Cocktail?

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The amount of time you allow the smoke and drink to mix affects the eventual flavor. Smoking a drink is all about combining the liquid and smoke flavors to create something different. Ultimately, the longer you let this process take place, the better the final flavor. But you also don’t want to wait too long; otherwise, your mix will over-smoke to a bitter taste, or the aroma will diffuse into the air and disappear. Learn more about the delicate art here and transform it into your cocktail smoking wizard alter-ego!

But first, what’s cocktail smoking?

The process of smoking a cocktail involves exposing it, some of its components or only the drinking glass to smoke to add layers of flavor. Since the mid-2000s, smoked cocktails have gained considerable popularity and have fascinated drinkers for quite some time.

However, the science behind the phenomenon is as old as time. Indeed, it goes all the way back to the days of open fire cooking when a dish would come out smoking aromatic and with woodsy flavors because of exposure to smoke.

That’s because the flavorful molecules from the smoke dissolve in the food leaving behind an impeccable aroma. The same thing happens to your skin and shirt when you stand near a barbecue grill for long, and you start smelling like roasted turkey.

So, over the years, bartenders have been experimenting with smoke to bring out flavorful notes in drinks. Eben Freeman, a New York bartender, began the smokey cocktail craze in 2007, and since then, a wide range of smoky cocktails have been cropping up on menus everywhere. From a smoked old-fashioned to smoked ice cubes and tequilas, these days, you can get just about a smoked anything from cocktail bars.

Adding smoke to cocktails enhances their aroma, flavor, and texture as well. Now, thanks to a smorgasbord of equipment and DIY kits, it is easier than ever to infuse smoke into your cocktails at home.

How Long to Smoke a Cocktail - Smoked Old Fashioned | Smokeshow Cocktail Smoker
Smoked Old Fashioned

How To Smoke Cocktails at Home

To smoke cocktails at home, you must assemble ingredients and prepare your cocktails. Some of the ingredients you will need are as follows:

The Drink

See, when it comes to smoking a drink, you don’t begin with smoky spirits or ingredients. Rather, you expose the whole cocktail or a part of its components to actual smoke. For example, you can add smoke to a single spirit and then sip it as it is or add it into a cocktail for a finer effect. Another option is to just make a cocktail and smoke the whole thing. Blend whatever you want and break out your smoking kit.

Wood Chips or Dust

You can use any hardwood as long as you know its species and can verify that it has not been treated. Some of the best hardwoods for cocktail smoking are oak, hickory, black cherry, pecan and sugar maple. Alternatively, you can use spices, teas, herbs or fruits peels. But when working with the latter, it’s better to vaporize than burn to avoid a burnt flavor.


You will need heat to torch the wood. A high powered butane torch has enough force to push the smoke down into your glass through the chimney of the smokers.

The Process

After preparing your cocktail, pour it into a drinking glass and place your smoker on top. Next, light the wood chips using the torch to channel the smoke through the chimney and into your glass. Once you’ve added enough smoke, let the smoke work its magic, then carefully remove the smoker to enjoy your tiki bonfire!

You can simply use a wood plank and a handheld butane torch if you don’t have a smoker combo. Simply prepare your drink, torch a section of the wood plank and invert your drinking glass over the torched area to capture the flavorful smoke. After you have gathered enough, put in your cocktail, tighten the lid, and swirl.

You can also use a smoke top, like the Smokeshow handcrafted walnut wood smoker. This goes on top of the glass, then you add wood chips and torch them up. Inside the smoker is a basket for the wood chips.

Once your wood chips are set, ignite your torch and arc it straight down just a few inches above the chips, which will propel the smoke downward. Upon putting in enough smoke, remove the smoker from the glass, cover it with the lid, and swirl.

Do You Have to Swirl and For How Long?

Yes, be sure to swirl to incorporate more of the drink with the smoke. You can control the amount of smokiness you want in the drink based on how much you swirl it with the smoke in the glass. Just don’t do it too hard. Swirl for just 15-30 seconds and let it sit for a few minutes so the smoke can work its magic.

So, How Long to Smoke a Cocktail?

The idea behind smoking a drink is to allow the liquid and the smoke flavors to combine into a new unique flavor. Most experts say you should wait anywhere between 3-5 minutes for the smoke to work its magic. But you’re free to experiment depending on your personal preference. The longer you let the smoke and drink mix, the better the flavor will be. Just remember not to leave it to over smoke.

After watching the smoke infuse the cocktail for 1-5 minutes, remove the dome carefully, put out the wood chips, and serve immediately. The wonderful aroma will diffuse into the air and disappear if you wait too long to serve. So, once you have allowed your cocktail to mix with the smoke, serve it immediately.

Alternatively, if you have only smoked a component of your cocktail, use it to build your drink as normal. Mix it with the remaining parts in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, then stir and shake.

Tricks And Tips for Better Smoked Cocktails

How long to smoke a cocktail | Negroni with smoke
Smoked Negroni Cocktail

Using the expert tips and tricks makes it possible to create the perfect smoked drink. Experimentation is key here, so you need to be patient. Even though you may not get it right the first instant, you are guaranteed to enjoy the experience. You can improve your odds of crafting the perfect smoky drink by using the following tricks.

Chill your glass

Smoke adores chilled surfaces; that’s where it sticks. So, chill your glass or whatever vessel you want to put the cocktail in. The chilled surface attracts moisture which allows particles in the smoke except for tar and carbon to dissolve, enhancing the flavor and taste of the cocktail.

Keep it low and take it slow.

The process of cocktail smoking uses low indirect heat, so patience and careful planning are a must. Smoking your drink longer will yield more flavor. So, once you finish adding smoke, you can swirl for 30 seconds, then let it stand for 1-5 minutes before enjoying. Ultimately, it’s about blending the flavors of smoke and drink. Besides, you can enjoy a variety of flavors by vaporizing spices, fruit peels, or teas.

Don’t over smoke it

To add the perfect flavor to a cocktail, you shouldn’t over smoke it. Over-smoking your drink mix may make it bitter, especially if you are working with spirits. Therefore, you should go slow and low, that is, use just the right amount of smoke and give it enough time to work its magic.

Don’t wet the wood dust.

Always use dry smoke dust. Many people believe that wetting wood makes it smoke more. But that isn’t very smart. If you soak wood dust, the moisture level and compacting pressure are compromised, and as a result, it burns poorly. While at it, avoid keeping the wood dust in moist places. Always keep them dry.

Airflow is essential

Airflow in a smoker plays a significant role in helping the smoke dust burn. Smokers must have adequate oxygen flow, as it is necessary for the burning to occur. Adequate airflow allows smoke dust to burn efficiently. That’s why the Smokeshow Cocktail Smoker has exhaust vents to let air flow into your glass without getting stuck. This is also why you shouldn’t fill the smoker basket to the top. Just sprinkle enough dust leaving sufficient space for air to get in and help it burn. You want better circulation of the smoke from the smoker to the whisky.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits to smoking drinks. Smoky aromas and billowing smoke create a stunning 3-D experience, while delicious molecules dissolve into cocktails to bring out unique notes. However, timing is quite important.

You have to time the smoking of your drink carefully. If you just let a huge smoke to sit in your drink for too long, you will end up with a bitter-tasting drink. Most experts recommend allowing whatever cocktail you are smoking 1 to 5 minutes to blend with smoke before serving.

If you’re interested in getting started, the Smokeshow Starter Bundle has everything you need to start smoking your drinks in style. Click here to get yours today!

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2 thoughts on “How Long To Smoke A Cocktail?”

    1. Hi Dave!

      We’ve made a bloody mary smoked with Apple wood before and it was honestly one of my favorite bloody mary’s I’ve ever had!

      We typically make our own mary mix using tomato juice, horseradish to taste, black pepper, old bay seasoning, and sriracha for extra heat if you like that. Our ratio is typically 2oz vodka for each 6oz bloody mary mix, and we like to smoke it at the end with Apple wood. Although, I have heard that Thyme and Rosemary make really good smoke fuel for them as well, but we’ve yet to try that! Hope this helps!
      – Jack

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