Smoking Cocktails has been a big trend over the past 1-2 years and still continues to gain popularity. For those not totally familiar with what “smoking a cocktail” means, it’s basically, the introduction of wood smoke (i.e. hickory, applewood, cherrywood) into a cocktail. The smoke can be introduced into the glassware itself (which one needs a closed space to do this in) or into the drink. One important thing to note … the more surface area contact the drink has with the smoke, the more smoke flavor infuses into the drink. (That’s important when considering what method you want to go with.)
Few items you will need and a few methods in smoking a cocktail ...
THE SMOKING GUN
This is, by far, the preferred method amongst culinary professionals and bartenders. Polyscience / Breville makes a great one that they recently updated. It's now widely available and can be purchased on Amazon. It comes with a collection of different woodchips (i.e. applewood, hickory, cherry, etc.) It’s as simple as adding a small pinch of woodchips into the chamber, turning it on and lighting it. Smoke comes out of the tubing within seconds and it only takes a few seconds to get the smoke you need.
OMNI Hotels did a "Season of Smoke" promotion this year using a wooden plank and put a cocktail glass over it, trapping the smoke underneath it. This is a great visual effect when doing something table-side. The server lifts up the glass and the smoke lifts and it slowly disappears into the air and the cocktail is poured into the smoked glass. A great visual effect.
NOTE: This is a "lighter" style smoked cocktail, as it smokes the glass, not the cocktail itself.
SMOKE BOX / DOME
Crafthouse creates a beautiful Smoke Box (and Dome, newly released). It's a lovely display of smoke and traps a generous amount that surrounds and clouds around the cocktail. It's a stunning display, especially, as the box is opened or the dome lifted, to see the smoke drift out. One can also control the amount of smoke into the drink by the length of time the drink is left inside the enclosed smoked area.
Both of these will run around $250 but it also includes The smoking gun and a collection of wood chips.
NOTE: While beautiful in its display and effect, it's not made for high volume. If a bartender had to crank out 10 of these, it would take some time. Or, if the bar opted to order multiple of these, it would take up significant space. While you could serve this tableside, it could be a little cumbersome.
This is simply making a cocktail, putting it in a bottle, adding smoke to the bottle, then capping it. I really like this method, as it can be high volume (a restaurant only needs to purchase multiple bottles) and it easily fits on a table. It’s a great tableside presentation. I also like this method, because it allows for a lot more surface area of the cocktail to touch the smoke which affects the overall flavor.
This bottle to the right is the Whiskey Bottle made from Hospitality Glass (it comes with a serving tray as well.) It's a pretty sexy bottle.
But, you can also use other bottles such as a swing top. Just make sure there is ample space in the bottle to allow for the smoke to touch as much surface area as possible.
SMOKING THE GLASS
Finally, the simplest and least expensive method would be to just smoke the top of the pre-made cocktail and put a nice coaster over it or even a bowl (or, as in the example to left, cover it with a leaf) and deliver to the table. (Could also be a nice garnish.) Also, if you covered the cocktail with a bowl, it could contain an edible garnish that would accompany the drink.). This is the fastest, easiest and most economical way to smoke a drink, a la minute.
NOTE: AdvancedMixology.com has a great blog post on the same topic as well. Click here to view.
SMOKED COCKTAILS EN MASSE
For events where you want to smoke many cocktails and serve them at once, I'd recommend pre-making the cocktail (with proper dilution) in advance and batching them in food-safe plastic bottles with a screw top cap. The smoke can be added, shaken and poured right out of the bottle. (The photo to the left was of a batched "Smoked Margarita" at a conference.)
THE POWER OF SMOKE
It is possible to smoke a cocktail too much. It's a strong flavor and longer the liquid is in contact with the smoke, the stronger the flavor will be. Just make sure you're smoking the cocktail shortly before you're going to serve it (or just don't shake it that much.) NOTE: This batched smoked cocktail was made a few hours in advance before serving.