Next time you're mixing up an Old Fashioned by the campfire—assuming you'd even do such a thing—try trapping a piece of smoking charred wood under your glass for a few minutes. That's assuming, too, that you're burning some nice, aromatic wood and not, say, Duraflames.
Or, skip all that and hit up Cusp at Hotel La Jolla for head bartender Chris Burkett's Smoke on the Water. To make it, he lights a small piece of apricot-flavored tobacco in a cast-iron skillet, extinguishes the flame and traps the smoke under a chilled rocks glass for about three minutes before adding rye whiskey, apricot liqueur, Amontillado sherry and bitters. Sip it slowly and youíll notice the cocktail evolving, Burkett says.
"So, you've got that strong apricot smoke right off the bat, and as that smoke dissipates and dissolves into the spirit itself, it imbues the cocktail with more flavor," he says.
Smoky flavor in cocktails can come from spirits, like Scotch or mezcal, or technique—a smoke-infused ingredient, smoked ice cubes or smoke itself. Here are seven drinks that capture a little campfire aroma in a glass:
Hola Y'all at JSix: Here, Del Maguey mescal gets hopped up on Tito's vodka that's been infused with chef Christian Graves' terrifically spicy barbecue rub. Agave, fresh lime juice and cilantro round out the cocktail.
Hell or High Water at Ironside: Head bartender Leigh LeCap describes this drink, made with Islay Scotch, Averna, Galliano and mole bitters, as a "smoky, full-bodied play on a Manhattan [that's] great for winding down after a meal."
The Gringo Verde at Noble Experiment: It's not currently on the menu, but Noble Experiment's Anthony Schmidt says it can be made by request (or, if you've got the goods, try it at home):
2 ounces mezcal
1/2 ounce Banane du Bresil
Dash habanero shrub
Add all ingredients, except lime wedge, to a rocks glass. Add ice. Squeeze lime wedge over ice.
Boulevard of Ashes at Lion's Den: This take on a Boulevardier is made with with bourbon, Carpano Antica and smoked Campari.
El Catador at Sycamore Den: This twist on a daiquiri combines mezcal, white rum, Velvet Falernum, cane syrup, lime, Angostura bitters and allspice dram. It's a way for mezcal-wary drinkers to ease into the spirit's warm smokiness.
Penicillin #9 at Coin-Op: Part of Coin-Op's beer-cocktails menu, it's made with Famous Grouse and Black Grouse Scotch whiskeys, lemon and honey and topped off with Almanac Golden Gate Göse sour beer.
Fuego y Color at URBN: Appearing on the menu in June, this concoction involves browning pineapples in a coal-fired oven, juicing them and mixing the juice with tequila, Cointreau Noir, lime juice, crème de cacao and a Thai-chili tincture. "The oven brings out a caramelized smokiness in the pineapples that's really cool," says Blind Tiger Cocktail Co.'s Jason O'Bryan.