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Smoky cocktails for seasonal sipping

Campfire weather may be in the rearview, but smoky flavors are completely at home on winter cocktail menus.
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ROKC's Smoke cocktail in Harlem, New York City

ROKC’s Smoke cocktail | photo by Zenith Richards

To create a wisp of smoke flavor in a cocktail, bartenders can rely on a spirit’s inherent smokiness—think mezcal or Scotch—or torch herbs and wood for a dramatic, aromatic effect. Cozy up and dive into these potent, smoldering sippers.

The Friendly Bystander
a.bar, Philadelphia
A bar spoon of Ardberg Islay Scotch, known for its deep campfire notes, lends a gentle smoke to this Rittenhouse rye-based Manhattan riff. The additions of creme de peche and lemon oil provide a bright counterpoint.

Vol. 39 Negroni
Vol. 39, Chicago A cigar and a nightcap inspired this subtle, winter-appropriate Negroni variation made with equal parts Tanqueray gin, Campari and sweet vermouth set off by a whisper of sweet and woody smoke from torched Palo Santo wood.

Smoked Fig
Avant at Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego
This herbaceous concoction proves smoked cocktails can still taste fresh and verdant; fig and rosemary syrup add a sweet, herbal twist to a Maker’s Mark bourbon-based cocktail topped with a charred, smoking rosemary sprig.

Smoked Old Fashioned
The Corner Office, Denver
Bartenders torch a cedar wood board (cedar being native to Colorado), then trap the smoke inside an Old Fashioned glass to contribute a charred wrinkle to an Old Fashioned made with Knob Creek Rye.

Smoke
ROKC, New York City
Theatrical cocktails take center stage at this ramen and cocktail bar in Harlem. Exhibit A: A glass bell jar lifts to reveal a plume of smoke that accents this combination of Buffalo Trace bourbon, ancho chile tincture, Cynar (an artichoke-flavored amaro) and housemade bitters.

Smoking Jacket
Jack Dusty at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Florida
Bartenders first soak applewood chips in bourbon before setting them ablaze; an overturned cocktail glass traps these aromatics before it’s set upright so the drink can be poured inside. The smoke is echoed in the rum barrel character of the bourbon as well as in a touch of char from burnt sugar syrup.

Unknown Death 
Mezcaleria las Flores, Chicago
Inherently smoky mezcal, a spirit distilled from roasted agave, gets top billing in this earthy-spicy combination of Wahaka Joven Espadin mezcal, creme de noyaux, lemon and orange zest and just a kick of heat, courtesy of Ancho Reyes chile liqueur.

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