The Art Of The Smoked Whiskey Cocktail

In the nineties, only around 15% of whiskey drinkers were female. That number has changed as more women are discovering a taste for a drink that has traditionally often been seen as the preserve of males. Now, the ratio for female/male whiskey drinkers is closer to 40/60. And the demand for whiskey is growing.

The whiskey sector is set to expand at a CAGR of 6% from 2021 to 2031. The market was already worth more than $60 billion by the end of last year and will be worth over $100 billion in less than ten years.

This represents a new trend for drinkers seeking out more complex flavors. It seems that while colorful and sickly sweet cocktails have their place, there is a definite move towards more sophisticated drinks in bars now.

Smoked cocktails are an emerging trend among drinkers today, and these can be enjoyed at home or in a bar. Combining the art of smoked cocktails, with quality whiskey, can give a classic drink a new and unique twist.

What are smoked whiskey cocktails?

Hearing the words ‘smoked whiskey cocktail’ together might make you think you’ve been drinking whisky wrong your whole life. However, that isn’t quite true.

A smoked cocktail can look a little like a mad professor who went behind a bar and carried out a chemistry experiment with whiskey. Yet for all the theatrics – and there are some due to the nature of smoking – there are scientific reasons for adding smoke to cocktails.

Basically, a smoked cocktail is a drink that has been aromatized and flavored with smoke. To make a smoked cocktail you will need a smoking gun at least. To make multiple cocktails at once you may need a smoking barrel.

What does smoking bring to a whiskey cocktail?

There is a bit of a spectacle when cocktails are made this way, but it isn’t about just the visuals. Something happens when smoke is introduced into a whiskey cocktail.

Firstly, your senses are captured. The initial sense that smoking affects is sight, but then the aroma of the drink will take over. The glass itself can trap the smoke where it clings to the vessel, and this enhances the drink’s flavor. So the next and last sense to be overcome is taste.

The smoke infuses and blends with all the ingredients of the drink creating a more nuanced, and sophisticated cocktail.

What flavors does smoking add to a whiskey cocktail?

The choice of wood makes a huge difference in how whiskey and the other component’s flavors will react to the smoking. Cherrywood is a popular choice, and wood from whiskey barrels can be used too. Apple, mesquite, hickory, and white oak, along with black cherry are all popular.

Apart from the wood, there are other ways to add flavor to the smoking element of the cocktail. Dried herbs are sometimes used by mixologists to take a drink to another level. Rosemary, thyme, and sage are common choices. The idea here is to add complexity and more layers to the smoke.

Can you prepare smoked cocktails at home?

As mentioned above, you need some tools to be able to create smoked cocktails. A bar that needs to prepare several at a time will need a bigger smoker. They may prefer something like a cocktail smoker by Aged & Charred which can take up to four whiskey drinks at once. 

For home though, a smoking gun could suffice. There are ways to make smoked drinks at home with no tools but you may find it easier with some purpose-designed equipment.

Creating a smoked whiskey cocktail at home involves creating your drink and straining it into a jar. A smoking gun is then used to pipe your chosen flavor into the same jar. You then cover the jar and gently swirl the liquid around to get the smoke to infuse it.

Remove the lid, pour the drink into a glass and savor. If you are using ice, then clear ice is recommended to truly ramp up the visual appeal of a smoked whiskey cocktail.

How do you make clear ice?

A ready-to-use smoking kit can be less than $100, and these can elevate the art of making a drink when hosting a party. But, you will need to make some preparations, and one of these is making clear ice.

When ice is put into trays it invariably clouds up. What is the cause of cloudy ice cubes? Well, it can be due to water containing impurities and minerals. This is usually nothing to fret about but can dampen the visual appeal of a smoked drink.

Creating clear ice is simple, but it adds something to the art of making and presenting a smoked cocktail.

Clear ice is made by freezing warm water in a suitable rectangular container such as a cooler. To help make the ice clearer, try boiling the water twice, and when it is just warm put it in the cooler to freeze. This helps to remove some impurities, and the warmth of the water means the ice freezes slower.

  • The lid should be left off so the water freezes from the top down.
  • When the water has mostly frozen but still has a layer of water underneath, remove it from the freezer.
  • Use a bread knife to cut the block into slices and then further into cubes.
  • If required you can at this point use an ice pick to shape more desirable-looking cubes.
  • Store ice until ready for use.

How can you make smoked whiskey cocktails?

Now, you may be interested in actually trying to get to grips with the art of making one of these cocktails. Often the best drinks are the most straightforward to prepare. A 5-minute whiskey cocktail recipe might hit the spot, but what about a smoked version as below?

Smokey New York Sour Cocktail Recipe

This recipe is for the classic New York Sour, but with the use of a cold smoking gun, the drink is punched up and gives a sensory overload.


  • 45ml to 60ml preferred American rye whiskey or bourbon
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 15ml red wine
  • 10ml sugar syrup (add extra if preferred)
  • Ice (clear ice if preferred)


  1. If using egg, separate the white, and discard the yolk.
  2. Make sugar syrup from one part sugar to one part water.
  3. Add sugar syrup to whisky in a shaker.
  4. Add lemon juice.
  5. Add egg white (if using).
  6. Shake well.
  7. Add ice and shake well again. If the egg is being used a foam layer will form.
  8. Pour this into a glass then add the red wine carefully so it forms a layer on top. Use the back of a spoon if required.


Fill the smoking gun with your preferred flavor and fill the glass with smoke under a cover. This can be done for around 20 seconds. Leave the drink to settle with a smoke cover in place and then serve after a few minutes.

Congratulations, you have taken the path to learn the art of making smoked whiskey cocktails.


Whiskey itself is hitting new heights in popularity. It is a libation that has been downed for centuries, but has often been avoided by younger drinkers, and often females.

With the smoking method though, whiskey is being introduced to a far broader audience. One that is finding pleasure not just in the whiskey itself, but with the added complexity that smoke provides.