In the very beginning, man created fire, and it was good. Then, a little while later, man created alcohol and things got even better. For a long time, both of these ingredients existed in very different realms — the alcohol behind the bar, and the smoke inside of the kitchen; however, as was recently reported in a feature in The New York Times, many of today’s cutting-edge bartenders are starting to rebel against the idea that the chefs are the only ones who should get to play with fire.
One of the most intriguing fads sweeping through the world of craft cocktails is the addition of smoke to list of ordinary bartending ingredients. The first examples can be traced to Manhattan’s now-defunct Tailor, where renowned bartender Eben Freeman smoked his own Coca-Cola syrup for signature Jack and Cokes. Smoking also comes in many other forms, including the use of the new Smoking Gun handheld smoker machine, which can infuse anything you’d want with the hefty, rich taste of burning mesquite or even the lighter air of smoldering flowers. Of course, there are more low-tech methods as well, with some bartenders preferring to give their cocktail glasses a hint of smoke by burning herbs and spices in a contained glass. Some bartenders, like Freeman, are even barging into the kitchen and commandeering the house smoker to get that full down-home flavor.
From the applewood-smoked ice at The Wayland in New York City to the smoked grapefruit oil in the Vixen’s Heart cocktail at Cure in New Orleans, there are plenty of tasty ways to experience this emerging behind-the-bar trend. If you’re looking for a more direct infusion of vapors, head to Washington, D.C. for The Columbia Room’s Ghost Dance, which is served in a glass that has been "rinsed" with smoke from burning bison grass and star anise (the glass is held upside down over the burning spices and the inside of the glass collects the smoke inside).
If you’re dying to try one of these smoky creations, there are easier ways to find your local bartender than looking for smoke signals. Just follow this handy list to the closest smoke-spouting bar.