At the Aviary cocktail bar in Chicago, a server presents a small treasure chest. Inside is a cocktail and enough aromatic smoke to fill a balloon. Before opening the chest, the server instructs you to ready your camera. Upon opening, smoke pours out, enveloping you (as it has the drink) in the scent of wood smoke.
Smoking cocktails clearly has much to do with showmanship, but it genuinely adds dimension to a drink, permeating the spirits or perfuming the glass. It can even add a tangible element, according to Lake Placid, New York, bartender Zachary Blair, who smokes wet glasses to leave a smoky film on the outside. “We call it the Adirondack feel,” he says.
A flaming orange peel, a smoke gun, a blowtorch and woodchips are just a few of the means bartenders use for smoking cocktails. But you don’t need those to do so at home.
“It’s as simple as lighting a cinnamon stick and putting your glass over that,” Blair says.
A cinnamon stick is the easiest thing to smoke—and is reusable—but the list is long. At Whiteface Lodge, Blair uses rosemary, cassia bark, cardamom pods, coffee beans and thyme, among other items.
For our smoked cocktail, we adapted one of Blair’s, created for a customer who wanted a drink reminiscent of the mountains and the tropics. The result: a hybrid of three classic cocktails (a daiquiri, a greyhound and a maple leaf), served in a cinnamon-smoked glass, garnished with sage leaves and orange zest.
“Between the sage and the cinnamon smoke, it gives you [the scent] of almost walking in the woods by a campfire,” Blair says.