How to Make Smoked Cocktails (5 Drink Recipes To Make)
I love a beer when I’m grilling or smoking. An ice cold beer straight from the coolbox, while you’re cooking over live fire, is almost primal. But sometimes, I prefer something a little, well, different.
If you regularly read my recipes, you’ll know that I generally sign off with a matching drink suggestion. Well this time I’m taking it one step further with a selection of drinks that are either smoked or have grilled elements to them!
From traditional classics cocktails like an Old Fashioned, to something a little fruity to enjoy on a summer’s day cookout.
Before we get stuck into the cocktail recipes I’ll run through some common techniques you’ll need to master to make these smoked drinks. You’ll then be able to experiment with other cocktails.
Making smoked ice
One of the best methods to add a smokey flavor to drinks is by smoking the ice.
You can use smoked ice in pretty much any drink, but it works particularly well with bourbon and whisky, as well as creamy drinks like Baileys. Experiment with it and see what you like. You’ll be surprised how versatile it can be!
Making smoked ice is fairly easy, and I’ve tried various methods with various degrees of success.
Method one – make ice first
The best method I’ve found is to actually make ice first.
I like to use the huge square block molds that you can buy in specialty stores, for reasons that I will explain in a minute. But first, the burning question – why should you freeze water into ice first? Won’t it just melt if you’re smoking it?
Well, yes it will.
However, if you just add water into the mold and smoke it, only the very top of the water will come into contact with any smoke, and it will hardly infuse any smoke flavor at all into the water.
By freezing the ice first, and smoking at a really low temp (around 160°F), as the ice melts, more surface area comes into contact with the smoke, and so it absorbs more smoke flavor. I find this method gives a subtle smokiness to the ice, without being super smoky, and is a great middle ground of being easy and having a nice flavor.
You can use pretty much any smoking wood you like and setup your smoker in the way you would normally, although I’d suggest buying some ice molds specifically for this purpose, as I can’t guarantee that you won’t have a slight residual smokiness in all ice that you make from this point on, which you might be fine with, but your other half may not always feel the same!
By using the biggest mold possible, you obviously prolong the melting, and so will have as much smoke flavor through the ice as you can. At the point that the ice is melted, I generally give it another 10 mins or so (just in case) and then it’s as simple as refreezing the ice!
Method two – smoke water first
Other methods I’ve used which you can try is to smoke by starting with water, and just stirring every 5 minutes or so. This means that you can continue to smoke the water for as long as you like, and can even taste it as you go to develop as much or little smoke flavor as you desire. It is, however, quite labor-intensive.
Method three – use liquid smoke
The other method I’ve tried, which was the worst of the three, is to add a few drops of liquid smoke to your water and stir it through before freezing. This is by far the easiest method, but the flavor I don’t really like.
Feel free to experiment and let us know in the comments below which you prefer and what you have the most success with! And of course, experiment with using smoked ice in all different kinds of drink!
Smoked honey (or other liquids)
This method below is specifically for smoked honey – which is delicious – but you can use the same method for any liquid. Again, experiment a bit to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
This is a super simple method of smoking honey, and you’ll need a large, shallow dish or tray, and the ability to smoke at lower temps (150°F-160°F). It’s ok if it creeps up a bit, but you don’t want to burn the sugars in the honey, and it’s quite easy to do that! You can even cold smoke your honey if you’re able to do that.
You want a large shallow dish to allow as much surface area of the honey to come into contact with the smoke as possible. At 160°F, I like to stir every 15-30 mins or so, and I find around 3-4 hours is a nice time frame to allow a subtle smoke flavor in the honey.
As well as using my smoked honey in this dish, I find myself using it for all kinds of things. Over pancakes, on Southern-style fried chicken, waffles, on ice cream, drizzled over bacon, and my 2 absolute favorites, drizzled over blue cheese with crackers, and drizzled over a prosciutto-wrapped smoked brie!
Smoking liquids with a smoking gun
Seeing as a lot of your flavor in these recipes comes from the liquid, you can enhance the flavors with a subtle smokiness using a kitchen device with a high-tech edge. A smoking gun allows you to cold smoke foods that you may not be able to get your smoker low enough to smoke, such as cheeses and delicate fish, as well as infusing liquids with a smokiness too.
I even use it to infuse an ice cream base with a smokiness before freezing – lookout for a future recipe for my Smoked Cherry and Bourbon ice cream! And it’s this benefit that we’ll be using this device for – adding smoke to liquid.
I’m using tomato juice here for the Bloody Mary recipe below, but this method can be used for lots of different liquids too – experiment!
Add around a cup of tomato juice and a couple cubes of ice to your cocktail shaker and use the smoking gun to add smoke to the cocktail shaker too. Put the lid on and vigorously shake for 30 seconds or so, then sit and let infuse for 3-5 minutes, then repeat once more.
This will give your tomato juice a smokiness – you only want a light smokiness here, as you’ll get some additional smoky flavors with the bacon and smoked salt too in the below recipe. Leave the cocktail shaker closed ready to use the tomato juice in your finished cocktail.
Alternatively, follow the method above to smoke honey (obviously substitute the honey for tomato juice), but shorten the time to an hour or two – keep tasting until you achieve the desired smokiness. You can keep this refrigerated for a week.
Smoked salt is incredibly easy to make. I make large batches when I’m close to running out whenever I’m running my smoker for something else.
You’ll want to use sea salt flakes (such as English Maldon Sea Salt) rather than kosher or regular salt as the salt crystals are much larger and therefore have a much higher surface area to take on the smoke. Regular salt just won’t work.
Simply scatter your salt flakes into a shallow tray such as a cookie tray or large alfoil pan. I just throw this on to the smoker whenever I’m doing a cook and need some smoked salt, and it’s up to you how long you leave it on there, but I find you’ll want at least 2-3 hours, so put it in at the end of longer cooks, or use the residual heat of your smoker once you’ve finished, and just throw on another chunk of wood or two.
And that’s really as simple as it gets. Basically salt + smoke + time = smoked salt. You don’t have to be accurate with temps or times, and there’s no probing to be done!
1. Smoked Old Fashioned
If you think cocktails are the domain of ladies in wine bars, think again! The Old Fashioned is an absolute classic, incorporating a base of bourbon with generally something sweet to lengthen it a little, and a twist of orange and some bitters, the Old Fashioned is the perfect ‘Cigar Lounge’ drink, to sit and indulge. I love to make this classic up on a winter’s evening, and add my own twist on it below
What you’ll need:
- Smoked Ice (see instructions above)
- ½ tbsp Smoked Honey (see instructions above)
- 1.5 oz of bourbon
- ½ oz of sugar syrup
- Couple of dashes of Orange Bitters
- 1 slice of grilled orange
- Old fashioned glass or whisky glass
Grilling the orange
Grilling any citrus fruit completely highlights and builds the flavors, and slightly caramelizes the sugars in them, giving them much more depth of flavor. Try halving a lemon and sitting it cut side down over charcoal on a grill to char it slightly, and then squeezing it over a chicken that you’ve done over charcoal. It’s a game changer! We’re going to incorporate those same intense flavors here.
Simply slice some oranges into ¼” thick round slices, and char over charcoal for a minute each side. The orange should still have some structural integrity, so if it goes too floppy, you’ve either left it too long or sliced too thin. You can then leave these to cool to use in your cocktail.
Building your Old Fashioned
- To make your Old Fashioned with my twist, start with a classic whiskey glass, and then begin by pouring the bourbon over the smoked ice, and adding your sugar syrup.
You can use store-bought simple sugar syrup, or if you prefer you can make your own. It’s super simple to make – just combine 1:1 parts sugar and water, heat water on the boil until sugar has dissolved and then simmer for 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool, and you’ve got a simple syrup that you can use for all sorts of things! Easy!
- Once you’ve combined the bourbon and syrup over ice, stir thoroughly to mix, then add a couple of drops of orange bitters. I prefer orange bitters over other bitters, but if you can’t get it, Angostura bitters would be my next option, and is super common. It’s also used in the original Old Fashioned recipe.
- Add your smoked honey. Sometimes the honey will thicken as it hits the ice, so I like to remove it for this step.
- Mix thoroughly again, then add your ice back to the glass, give it a final stir, and add your caramelized orange slice as garnish. You can either add to the rim of the glass or add the whole slice to the drink itself. As the ice melts, your drink will change in complexity and smoke flavor!
Enjoy with a cigar if you like, preferably with a large dog by your side, with a roaring fire, and a bearskin rug in a log cabin. Cheers, mate.
2. Smoked Bloody Mary
The Bloody Mary is a well-known cocktail, often associated with being a hangover cure. This one has a bit of a modern twist and uses some specialty equipment, but can be made simply too, using more traditional methods that you may be more used to! My method uses a smoking gun, but I’ll show you how to get a similar result using your backyard smoker.
What you’ll need:
- A smoking gun (I use a Breville one), with wood sawdust
- Cocktail shaker (if using the smoking gun)
- 1.5 oz of vodka
- Tabasco or other similar hot sauce
- Rasher of smoked bacon
- A celery stick
- Smoked salt (see recipe below)
- Cracked black pepper
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tomato juice
Making your Smoked Bloody Mary
- Build your cocktail in a highball glass, starting with ice, then adding your vodka and tomato juice.
- Add a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a couple of dashes of Tabasco, then stir.
- Add your smoked salt, and some ground cracked black pepper, and garnish with a crispy rasher of smoked streaky bacon and a celery stick.
Enjoy with a hangover. Cheers, mate!
3. Smoked Espresso Martini
The Espresso Martini is becoming a staple in clubs and bars as a sophisticated, punchy cocktail. Again, we’re going to ‘backyard’ it up a bit, and add a bit of smokiness to it, to give it a complexity I find missing.
What you’ll need:
- 1 oz vodka
- 1 oz coffee liqueur – I use Kahlua
- 1 standard shot of espresso
- Martini glass
- Cocktail shaker
- Smoking gun (see above recipe for info)
Making your Cocktail
- Fill your cocktail shaker around half full with ice, then add your other liquid ingredients.
- You’ll then need that smoking gun to fill the shaker with smoke. I have not found another method of doing this, other than to use liquid smoke. If you use this method, use the liquid smoke SPARINGLY. You only need a drop or two.
- After adding your smoke, add the shaker lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass.
Enjoy with a chocolate cannoli. Cheers, mate!
4. Gin & Tonic with Grilled Watermelon and Mint
This is another twist on an absolute classic, and another drink I love to enjoy on a summer’s day, while grilling in the yard. It’s gloriously refreshing, and the grilled watermelon adds an extra layer of flavor to this cocktail.
The beauty of this drink is that there are so many variations for you to experiment with, using different Gins but also, different tonics. For this recipe, I have listed exactly the Gin and Tonic variety that I find works well, but if you can’t find these, use a simple London dry gin, and experiment with different tonics.
What you’ll need:
- Whisky glass
- 1.5 oz Gin – I use Hendricks
- Tonic Water – I use Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic
- Sprigs of mint
Grilling your watermelon
- Cut your watermelon into ¾“ slices, and add directly over a raging charcoal grill for 3 minutes, until grill marks and a bit of caramelization is achieved.
- Flip the watermelon, and grill again on the other side for the same amount of time.
- Remove from the grill, and then cut your watermelon into ¾“ cubes.
You’ll want to do this as close to serving time as you can to avoid the watermelon turning slushy, but you can store in the fridge for an hour or so too.
Making Your Gin and Tonic
- Add ice to a short heavy-bottomed glass, and fold a couple of mint leaves in half and rub between your fingers to release the aromatic oils in the herb.
- Add one cube of grilled watermelon and slightly crush against the glass with the back of a spoon to release some flavor, then add another one. Do not crush this one.
- Add your gin, and top up with your tonic water, then stir lightly to combine flavors.
- Add a sprig of mint as garnish.
Enjoy on its own around a pool, or with friends in the sun with some brats on sourdough rolls. Experiment with using basil in place of the mint. Cheers, mate!
5. The Deputy’s Dilemma
This cocktail recipe is one I completely invented. A neighbor of mine is a Deputy Principal and one weekend, I invited him over, probably for some brisket or something. I asked him how his day was, and he replied with “Well I have a dilemma…”. I stopped him right there and said that we should probably get a drink if we were going to be putting the World to rights. It was a scorching hot Queensland summer day, so I decided to make some cocktails. And so the rudimentary ‘Deputy’s Dilemma’ was born. I have since refined it a little, and here it is in its glory below.
What you’ll need:
- 1 oz of dark Caribbean rum
- ½ oz of elderflower syrup (available at good specialty stores)
- 1 cup alcoholic ginger beer (not ginger ale)
- A couple of sprigs of mint
- Wedge of lime
- 1 tsp of brown sugar
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Kitchen blowtorch
- Highball glass
- Smoked ice (see recipe above)
Building the cocktail
This cocktail can be quite potent, so if you want to drink a few of these, feel free to substitute the alcoholic ginger beer with non-alcoholic.
- In a highball glass, put a couple of mint leaves and a tsp of brown sugar, with a wedge of lime. Muddle together (basically, bash it all up in the bottom of the glass – I use the end of a rolling pin).
- Place a large cube of smoked ice (see above recipe for instructions on how to make smoked ice) into the glass, or feel free to substitute for normal ice. Then simply pour over the rum, elderflower syrup, then top up with the ginger beer.
- Garnish with the rosemary sprig, and light the top leaves with a blowtorch or lighter until they smolder. Serve still smoking, and the aroma will add to the flavor as this cocktail is drunk.
I like to drink this on a summer’s day whilst grilling outside, it goes well with a spicy chicken like a Peri-Peri or Portuguese style chicken, as well as greek style flavors to capture the citrus and rosemary elements. Cheers, mate!