This time of year, when cocktail hour rolls around, we're reaching for all things bitter, smoky and stirred. And while Scotch and mescal cocktails make for excellent winter warmers, bartenders around the country are creating a new smoky cocktail game that is (quite literally) on fire.
Angela Laino of NYC's The Wayland and Goodnight Sonny has been mixing up a storm of next-level smoked cocktails. At both of her bars, you can order smoky drinks such as the I Hear Banjos, Encore, made with apple-pie moonshine and presented with a stunning globe of smoke on top. Sipping on one of these is like being transported to a campfire— a campfire that's inside a cozy NYC cocktail bar where you can order food until 4 a.m.
Laino's inspiration for her cocktails comes primarily from her vegetarian diet: Fresh juices and herbs translate well to mixology, as cocktails typically don't involve animal fats. Instead of drawing from a love of smoked meats, she originally began smoking cocktails by burning sage on a plate and allowing the herb to subtly flavor a rocks glass. Now she makes her intensely flavored cocktails by adding a spirit to a blender and filling it with hickory smoke. This way she can control the flavors more easily and bring out the woodiness or bitter flavors of certain spirits, such as reposado tequila.
Elsewhere, bartenders are finding other ways to use smoke in their drinks. American Cut in Tribeca serves a plank-smoked old-fashioned, in which a maple plank is set ablaze and then a glass is placed on top of the residual smoke to flavor it. In L.A., Gracias Madre serves several smoked cocktails, including the tongue-in-cheek Up in Smoke, which is smoked inside of a bong instead of a blender.
You can experiment with your own smoked cocktails with the purchase of a smoking gun. Try smoking whiskey for old-fashioneds, tomato juice for Bloody Marys, cherries for a smoky garnish or even water to make smoked ice. You can also extend your investment by branching out into your kitchen and smoking butter, meat for chili or melted chocolate for campfire candies. The smoky possibilities are endless.
Check out the slideshow to see a step-by-step of how Laino does it.
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