If you’ve ever paid attention to how a bartender makes a drink, you’ve already seen all of the common bar tools. The jigger, the strainer, the cocktail shaker — these are the tools of the trade for a serious bartender, and they’re used to make all sorts of interesting cocktails, shots and non-alcoholic drinks.
Yet the art of mixology is ever-changing, and lately, we’re seeing more and more bartenders use more tools than just the standard muddler and mixing spoon. One thing that a lot of our favorite mixologists seem to have on their bar these days is a cocktail smoker.
Cocktail smoking isn’t exactly new — New York barkeeps have been doing it for nearly 15 years. But it is growing in popularity, in part because it’s super easy to do and super impressive (when you know how to pull it off). And maybe, just maybe, it’s because most of us spent 2020 at home, desperate for new ways to get our drink on.
Ready to learn what cocktail smoking is all about? Here’s what a cocktail smoker is, how a cocktail smoker works and our favorites for at-home use.
What is a Cocktail Smoker?
A cocktail smoker is a device that adds visual smoke as well as smoky flavor to a drink. There are different formats and set-ups, such as the smoking box, the smoking cloche and the smoking lid, but they all involve the use of a smoker gun and wood chips.
How a Cocktail Smoker Works
You heat wood chips in a chamber of the smoking gun, with a hose attached at the end of the gun. You then put that hose through the opening in the box or lid. Once the chips are hot, just hit the “on” button and start blowing smoke into the cocktail.
Voila! In a matter of seconds, you’ve got a smoked cocktail that looks cool and tastes amazing.
How Do You Use a Cocktail Smoker?
Think you’re fancy because you make cocktails at home with a shaker, a jigger, a mixing spoon and a strainer? If your plan is to become a master mixologist behind your home bar, it’s time to add a cocktail smoker to your assortment of other barware.
Cocktail smokers are perfect for infusing smoky flavor to Scotch and whiskey drinks. So if your go-to cocktail is an old-fashioned or a Manhattan, you can break out a smoking gun or smoking box and enhance your favorite drink with all sorts of smoky goodness.
There are a couple of different ways to smoke a cocktail, depending on the type of flavor you’re going for in your drinks.
The easiest way is to smoke rinse the glass, not the cocktail. Smoke sticks to things that are chilled, so you can smoke an empty, chilled glass before even pouring your cocktail. This method offers the lightest smoke flavor, with just a hint of smokiness that won’t have a heavy effect on the taste of your drink.
If it’s a heavier, smokier flavor you’re going for, you’ll want to make your cocktail in your glass and smoke the entire thing. (We like this method best.) With some wood and some heat, you can turn any drink into a smoky sensation that looks like it just came out of a laboratory.
Learn how to smoke cocktails at home, and you’ll definitely impress your guests at your next dinner party or at-home bar night. Even if they don’t love the smoky flavor, they’re sure to enjoy the show!
Ready to find the cocktail smoker that’s right for you? Here are seven of our favorites, perfect for the amateur bartender or the serious mixologist.
The Crafthouse by Fortessa Smoking Box is pretty much the best cocktail smoking box you can buy. Not only does it impart all that delicious smoky flavor into your drink, but the glass box lets you watch the smoke do its magic — a true treat for both the eyes and the taste buds.
This Fortessa cocktail smoking box features a stainless steel frame with four glass sides and comes with a handheld smoker gun and smoking chips. Just make your drink, put it in the box, put the hose through the opening in the box, and turn on your smoking gun.
The entire box (and the drink inside) will fill with smoke, making for a tasty cocktail with some extra-added drama.
The Smoke Board Smoked Cocktail Kit is loaded with the supplies needed to make a smoky cocktail. This kit includes cherry, apple and pecan smoking chips, a white oak smoking board, a smoking gun and a mason jar to infuse your cocktails with some incredible smoked flavor.
It also includes a handy little travel case the next time you want to take your smoker to a friend’s house.
Some cocktail smokers come with small amounts of wood chips — but this one comes with three large jars, enough to make 300 cocktails in total.
This is one of the best cocktail smoking kits out there, but it is missing one key component: the butane gas needed to light the torch. Butane can’t be shipped through the mail or through a delivery service, so you’ll have to head to a local hardware store to buy some.
In the mood for a smoked old-fashioned or a smoky scotch and soda? The Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser Kit lets you do so with ease.
This cocktail smoker kit features a smoking gun with AA batteries, a stand, a flexible hose and a smoking disk lid. Just make your cocktail in your preferred glass, put the lid on top and put the smoking hose through the hole in the disk. It will infuse your drink with that delicious smoky flavor through a cold smoke technique.
This infuser comes with four different wood chips, including pear, cherry, hickory and cottonwood. It also comes with mesh filters, a cleaning brush with tweezers, and a screwdriver that makes it super easy to assemble straight out of the box.
When you’re not in the mood for a smoky cocktail, you can also use this infuser to inject smoky flavor into meats, cheeses and other types of food.
Breville doesn’t just make great juicers and food processors — they also make a professional, commercial-grade cocktail smoker for use in restaurant kitchens and high-end bars, as well as home bars.
The Breville Smoking Gun Pro is a handheld smoker with an extra-large chamber to load in your wood chips. It’s detailed with a silicone smoking hose, a solid base that holds the gun flat and upright in a safe position and various speeds so you can smoke your cocktails gently or with an intense cold smoke.
If you’re a serious mixologist, this is one of the best cocktail smokers you can buy. It comes with four mesh filter screens, AA batteries and samples of wood chips in hickory and Applewood flavors.
One of the reasons we love the MITBAK Cold Smoking Gun is that it doesn’t come with a box to put your drink inside or a flat lid to put over your glass. Instead, it comes with a domed cloche, which makes it not only great for smoking your favorite cocktails but also for smoking meats, cheeses or fully plated meals.
This smoke gun kit also comes with wood chips, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and mesh filter screens. To use it, just put your glass or plate beneath the lid, put the hose through the opening in the dome, light your wood chips and hit the start button.
It’s super easy to use, and it’s a versatile tool that you can break out anytime you’re craving a smoky BBQ flavor in your food or in your cocktails.
Cold smoke your favorite cocktails with the Homia Smoking Gun Smoke Infuser. This electric cold smoker kit contains 14 pieces, including a smoking gun, a flexible hose, a disk lid, and a tall smoking lid for drinks in tall glasses.
It also comes with seven different wood chip flavors, 20 extra mesh filter screens, batteries, a cleaning brush, and a smoking cocktail ball so you can serve drinks with serious style.
This cocktail smoker offers two smoking speeds for light or intense smoking. With the three different applications of the flat lid, tall dome lid and cocktail ball, you can smoke three different cocktails in a row, making it perfect if you’re looking to wow your friends with some home bar magic.
The Gramercy Kitchen Company Cocktail Smoker is one of the most affordable cocktail smokers on Amazon, and it gets some of the best reviews. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a lid or a cloche — you’ll need to pick up one of those separately.
Featuring a handheld smoke infuser, this smoker kit includes wood chips, a cleaning brush, mesh filter screens and a storage bag to keep all of the accessories contained in between uses. It’s a great way to smoke cocktails, and since you can determine which type of lid you want to use, you can also use it to smoke meats, plated meals, cheese, salmon and all sorts of various foods and snacks.
Do Cocktail Smokers Change the Taste of Your Drinks?
Cocktail smokers don’t just make a drink look smokey, they also add a smoky flavor. But before you try to impress guests at your next house party with smoke-filled drinks, we suggest doing a little experimenting to get it right.
Certain types of liquor work best with certain kinds of wood. Try smoking your favorite whiskey cocktail with hickory wood or applewood chips. Try smoking your favorite Scotch with different types of cherry or pecan wood chips. Give your favorite bourbon a try with cottonwood or pear wood chips.
There are lots of combinations that work well (and some that don’t), so it’s best to experiment with different combos to find the one you love.
Just do us all one favor and don’t go crazy smoking every cocktail you make. It makes perfect sense to smoke heavy-bodied drinks with whiskey, bourbon or Scotch, but if you’re in the mood for a daiquiri or a margarita, we suggest keeping them nicely chilled on ice.
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7 Best Cocktail Smokers: