Barbecue Flavor You Can Drink
How well equipped is your home bar? Jigger? Check. Shaker? Check. Hawthorne strainer? Check. Smoking gun? Huh?
Yes, a handheld smoker is the latest weapon in a barman’s (not to mention barbecue fanatic’s) arsenal, and smoked cocktails are turning up at cutting edge bars from Brooklyn to San Francisco.
According to master mixologist, Dale DeGroff (if you don’t own his book The Essential Cocktail, run—don’t walk—to your local bookstore), smoke adds a richness, complexity, and depth of flavor that can make a respectable cocktail great and a great cocktail a work of art.
Smoke guns come in two basic models, but both work on a similar principle. You load in the hardwood sawdust of your choice, turn on the fan, and shoot smoke into your favorite cocktail. Excellent just got better.
- Weapon #1: The Smoking Gun by PolyScience. It looks like a black plastic handheld hair drier. You put hardwood sawdust in the smoke chamber. Switch on the battery-powered fan and light the sawdust with a match. For smoking cocktails and other beverages, a rubber tube fits on the end of the Smoking Gun: simply insert it in the liquid. Cover the glass or bowl with plastic wrap and fill with smoke. Repeat as necessary.
- Weapon #2: The Aladin Smoker. The first time I saw one of these smokers, I flashed back to the bongs of my college days. (Don’t worry: Like Bill, I didn’t inhale.) Yet marquee chefs all over the world, like Peter Elckerlijc of the amazing Elckerlijc restaurant in Maldegem, Belgium, uses it for smoking everything from sea scallops to cocktails. Shaped like an upright metal cylinder, the Aladin has a fan in the bottom section, a sawdust holder at the top and a smoke chamber with a flexible plastic hose for directing the smoke.
So how do you actually smoke a cocktail with wood smoke?
- Coat the inside of the glass with smoke flavor. Fill an inverted bar glass with smoke. Tightly cover the glass with a coaster and turn it back over. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cocktail and serve immediately, with the glass still smoking. Try the Dragon’s Breath.
- Infuse smoke directly into the cocktail. Mix your drink in a bar shaker or glass. Cover the top with plastic wrap, leaving one edge open for the rubber smoking tube. Insert the tube all the way to the bottom of the drink. Fire the smoking gun to fill the shaker with smoke. Quickly remove the hose and seal the top of the shaker with plastic. Let stand for 3 to 4 minutes, then uncover and stir in the smoke with a bar spoon. Repeated as needed to achieve the desired degree of smokiness. Make the Smoky Mary with this technique.
- Smoke a large batch of cocktails at once. Place your ingredients in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Insert the smoking hose and smoke and stir as described above.
- Cold smoke your ice cubes. Place them in a smoker and smoke for 15 to 20 minutes (keep the temperature below 90 degrees). Yes, they’ll melt. Refreeze the water in ice cube trays. Bingo—smoked ice cubes. (I learned this trick from the bartender at the Tavern at the Broadmoor resort where I run Barbecue University.)
Here are two smoked cocktails to add to your repertoire. Think of them as barbecue you can drink.
Find out more about smoky spirits and flavorings you can add to your cocktails to get that distinctive barbecue flavor.
Do you have a question about smoke guns, cool tools, or anything else barbecue-related? Ask me anything in my new Ask Steven forum. I’ll fill you in on all the interesting tips I’ve picked up during my travels around Planet Barbecue.