Wood smoke evokes all kinds of wonderful things. A campfire as a kid. A pit full of coals at a great barbecue joint. The aroma is intoxicating on its own, but bottled up—and stirred into a drink—it’s indescribable. Expert barman Sother Teague showed us how a smoke infusion can give a cocktail a delicious twist.[jump]
It’s Friday afternoon, you’ve made it through the long week, and it’s time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo’s weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. I did not inhale (that drink).
The process of working smoke into a drink starts with a hand smoker, like the $100 Smoking Gun shown in the video above. It can infuse smoke into anything from an oven-roasted chicken to a raw spinach salad. Or gummy bears. Whatever you want. You just insert a small amount of wood chips, put the hose where you want the smoke to go, turn on the battery-operated device, and hold a lighter to the chips. Instant, thick smoke. Really slick.
When that smoke hits its target, it alters the drink’s aroma. That makes a huge difference. “The aroma of a food can be responsible for as much as 90 percent of its flavor,” according to Eric Schlosser in his book Fast Food Nation. In a drink, a smoke infusion adds a layer of savory complexity. It isn’t going to be appropriate for every cocktail, and it might even ruin some. But a smoky variation on a classic—like an Old Fashioned—can be amazing.
To serve a Smoked Old Fashioned when he worked at Rye in NYC, Sother would make one large, double-sized drink, then split it in half. He poured one glass of a normal Old Fashioned, drizzled over a perfect ball of ice and served right away. The other half went into a bottle. Sother pumped apple smoke from the Gun into the bottle, capped it off, and then the patron shook the bottle every now and then while sipping the regular Old Fashioned. By the time the smoke cleared—having infused into the drink—the glass would be ready for a refill.