Smoked Cocktail Recipes: Throw the Best Happy Hour Ever

October 30, 2023
Written by John Smits

If you're a BBQ enthusiast, you know what the kiss of wood smoke does to food. I've got excellent news for you - smoked cocktails are amazing, too. You can use a smoking gun, your smoker, or some wood chips to get that delicious smoke flavor. I'll walk you through the whole process for each technique.

I love a stiff drink. The first time I had a smoked cocktail was at a local steakhouse. Their smoked old-fashioned was life-changing. I've been fiddling around with my own smoked cocktails ever since.

Grab the appropriate cocktail glass! Smoking cocktails is easy. Let the smoky flavors transform your favorite cocktail recipes. I'm going to show you the best-smoked cocktails (and recipes) for your bar cart. Cheers!

smoked cocktail recipes

Four Techniques for Smoking Cocktails

There are four main ways that people infuse smoke flavors into their cocktails. Let's take a quick look at each option.

1. Smolder Wood Chips with a Blowtorch, Lighter, or Kitchen Torch

This is my go-to method. It doesn't require extra equipment, it works for infusing smoke into any cocktail, and it gets the job done in a hurry.

There are a lot of fancy gizmos you can buy to do this. Don't waste your money. Here's what I do:

  1. Grab a small ball jar with a metal lid (not plastic). Poke some holes in the metal lid with a drill, or carefully do it with a sharp knife.
  2. Fix your drink. Pour it into the ball jar. Put the lid on.
  3. Put some wood chips on the lid.
  4. Light the chips.
  5. Place a cocktail glass upside down on top of the mason jar.
  6. Let it smoke as long as you please (I usually let it go for a minute or two), then pour the smoked cocktail into the cocktail glass. Add some ice and get drinking!

Note: if any ashes fall into your drink, scoop them out with a spoon. While I've been served drinks at restaurants that have wood still smoldering in the glass (and I've eaten a few hot dogs that had stray ash on them), it's probably best not to eat the ashes.

Alternatively, you can also just light the chips on a fire-proof surface and place an empty glass on top of them (upside down). This will get smokiness in your glass, and it'll make your drink taste smoky. Fix your cocktail and pour it into the smoked glass.

2. Use Your Smoker

Fire up your smoker and smoke beverages on it. This is great for simple syrup, apple cider, maple syrup, and smoked bloody mary mix. I wouldn't put liquor on your smoker. You risk over-smoking your expensive booze.

You can also get a smoky flavor in ice cubes by smoking water on your smoker. Freeze smoked water in ice cube trays for smoked ice cubes, and you're ready to give any cocktail a smoky kick!

I smoke liquids for around 30 minutes at 225°F. Play around with time and temps to find your sweet spot.

Smoking Dry Ice Blue Cocktail

3. Use a Smoking Gun

A smoking gun works great if you prepare a lot of smoked drinks. Push a button, and it will light wood chips, causing smoke to come out of a tube. Put the tube in your cocktail glass, and you're smoking. The guns have a lid that goes on top of your cocktail glass to keep the smoke in.

These guns are quick and easy to use but can get expensive in a hurry. If you're looking to buy a smoking gun, this is the one I would grab.

4. Use Liquid Smoke

If you dig the flavor of liquid smoke, use a dash or two to add some smoky flavor to your favorite cocktail. The flavor isn't for me, but if you like it, go nuts.

Smoked Cocktail Recipes

Enough about how to give cocktails a smoky twist. Let's get to crafting some smoky cocktails! Here are some of my absolute favorite recipes. Follow them to make the best-smoked cocktails!

1. Smoked Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

The old-fashioned is one of the greatest cocktails known to humans. It's a delicious, classic cocktail. Add some smoke to the mix, and you've struck Kentucky gold. Use a high-proof bourbon (around 100 proof) for best results. I like Old Forester 100.

Use bourbon if you want a sweeter drink or rye whiskey for something more complex. Rye whiskey is traditional. A large ice cube makes for an elegant presentation if you've got a mold for one.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Kentucky whiskey
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup or maple syrup
  • Several dashes of Angostura bitters or your favorite aromatic bitters (cherry bitters are nice)
  • Citrus peel to garnish (orange peel is classic)

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients in a rocks glass. Stir.
  2. Infuse with smoke using your desired method.
  3. Add ice to the cocktail. Garnish with an orange peel.
  4. Serve!
Smoked Old Fashioned Rum Cocktail

2. Smoked Manhattan

The rich flavors of a smoky Manhattan are a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Again, a high-proof whiskey works wonders for this cocktail. Warn your guests to sip slowly - this one's dangerous! The smokiness of this cocktail makes it the perfect drink in the fall.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Bourbon or Rye
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (red vermouth)
  • A few dashes of Angostura bitters (you can use your favorite flavor or brand, as well)
  • Cocktail cherry to garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients in a rocks glass. Stir.
  2. Add smoke.
  3. Add ice to the glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.
  4. Serve!
Smoked Manhattan on the Glass with Cocktail Cherry

3. Smoked Margarita Recipe

Tequila is another spirit that really shines when smoked. Smoked margaritas are sure to get the party started on a hot summer day! You and your friends will be sipping in style if you make a batch.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz tequila or mezcal
  • 1/2 oz sweet orange liqueur
  • 1 oz lime juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup or simple syrup
  • Salt, Tajin, or other spice for the lip of the glass.
  • Lime wheel or wedge to garnish

Instructions

  1. Salt the rim of the glass. Get the rim wet, pour some salt on a plate, and twist the rim of the glass in the salt.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a lowball glass. Stir.
  3. Infuse with smoke using your favorite method.
  4. Add ice to the glass and garnish with a lime.
  5. Serve.
Margarita with Pineapple and Jalapeno

4. Smoked Bloody Mary Recipe

Bloodies may be the ideal cocktail to add smoke to. They've got so much flavor already. Why not add some smoke to the mix? People love to get creative with bloody marys. Punch up this recipe with hot sauce, garlic powder, lemon juice, horseradish, or whatever other favorite fixing you've got. You can mix up the base spirit (vodka) and use gin, tequila, or whiskey.

Here's my go-to recipe, which will make your next brunch the best party on the block.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 4 oz bloody mary mix (I like Zing Zang)
  • Garnishes of your choice. Celery is traditional, but people love to load up those bloody mary's. Set out a variety of meats, cheeses, hot sauces, and seasonings.
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Infuse the cocktail with smoke using the method of your choice.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the vodka and bloody mary mix. Shake for around 30 seconds.
  3. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice.
  4. Garnish with celery or other ingredients.
  5. Serve.
Spicy Bloody Mary Cocktail with Garnish

What Species of Wood to Use?

Oak and hickory wood chips are timeless choices. Wood chips made from used whiskey barrels (always oak) work beautifully, too.

If you use a fruitwood, you'll get a fruity sweetness. Apple, pecan, pear, and cherrywood chips are widely available, popular options.

Think about your drink. If your cocktail features apple cider, using applewood chips will give the drink perfect harmony.

Safety Tips

Any spirit with a proof over 151 can sustain a flame. Keep very high-proof liquors clear from any open flame.

The wood chips you'll be smoking are small, so any risk of a fire is nominal. Still, be cautious. Fire and alcohol are a dangerous combo. Don't make a smoked cocktail if you've had too much to drink. Follow fire safety best practices, and only use a flame on flame-proof surfaces. Make the drinks in a well-ventilated area, and make sure the chips are fully extinguished before disposing of them.

Wrapping It Up

Now you know how to smoke a cocktail just like the fancy cocktail bar down the street. Save some dough and do it at home. You don't even need a cocktail smoker to do it!

Most cocktails will benefit from a kick of smoke. Fiddle around and find your favorite smoked cocktail recipe! Bottoms up!

By John Smits
John bought his first home in 2012 and bought his first grill shortly afterward: the ubiquitous Weber kettle grill. He’s been hooked since the first time he fired up some coals. Now, after over a decade spent making countless delicious meals, John is a passionate advocate for live-fire cooking.
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