Food & Drink

8 Easy Hacks for Smoky Cocktails

Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Lighting your cocktail—or your cocktail garnishes—on fire can be dangerous. Singed eyebrows don’t look good on anyone. Lucky for those of us who love an earthy, smoky, fire-tinged cocktail, there are a few easy hacks. Here are eight cocktail ingredients that add the mesquite flavors of fire to your cocktail—no matches or lighters needed.

Atomized Mezcal or Scotch

An easy way to add the smoky depth of these two spirits—without using them as the cocktail’s base—is with an atomizer. Try giving cocktails like the Rob Roy, which uses a blended scotch at the base, an extra wallop of smoke with a heavy misting of a peat monster like Laphroaig.

Liquid Smoke

Traditionally used in marinades for meat or as a flavor enhancer in barbeque sauces, liquid smoke simulates the flavors of wood smoking. In cocktails, a few dashes of liquid smoke will give any drink a fatty, rounded depth and rich smokiness. Try it in your next Dark and Stormy. A word of caution, though: Liquid smoke is powerful and can easily take over a cocktail. Use an eyedropper and apply carefully as you would bitters.

Crude “Pooter” Bitters Smoke and Salt ($12)

Made with lapsang souchong, a Chinese black tea traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, these bitters add an instant, deeply smoky depth to cocktails. Try them in a Mezcal Old Fashioned made with agave syrup in place of sugar for a cocktail that tastes like fire-roasted bitter oranges.

Smoked Salt

A long time favorite of ours, smoked salt is one of the most versatile ways to give cocktails a smoky edge. It can be infused into syrups—like a grapefruit oleo saccharum—or used to rim an already smoky Mezcal Margarita. You can even mix it with boiling water and bottle it for a quick and easy to use saline solution.

Cocktail Punk Smoked Orange Bitters ($12)

These bitters from Cocktail Punk are exactly what your Bourbon Old Fashioned is missing. Cold-smoked with alder wood, they have a bright citrusy flavor and a woodsy funkiness, like an unlaundered denim shirt the morning after a campfire.

The Bitter End Memphis Barbeque Bitters ($19)

Hailing from Santa Fe, New Mexico, these bitters make any cocktail taste like liquid BBQ. Use them to give a Manhattan, Sazerac or even a neat glass of bourbon a blast of spicy, smoked pork fat flavor.

RAFT Smoked Tea Vanilla Syrup ($15)

This smoked syrup is one of our favorites. With rich flavors of a demerara and creamy vanilla sweetness, the syrup has a backbone of pinewood-smoked black tea. Use it in a variety of cocktails, from a smoky twist on the Planter’s Punch to tiki favorites like the Pearl Diver (just swap out the vanilla syrup in the Gardenia Mix for this smoked vanilla syrup).

Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Bitters ($17)

With a seriously spicy kick, these Brooklyn-made bitters add the distinct, smoky heat of roasted red chiles to any cocktail. Like a brighter, spicier variation of Mole Bitters, these are best used in citrus-heavy cocktails like the Last Word and tequila favorites like the Baja Gold.