Want to know how to make cool smoked cocktails? I’ll show you how to create them at home using dry ice and other trade secrets from the best mixologists!
Your fall cocktail is about to get spooky! There’s nothing more spectacular than a great cocktail billowing with spooky smoke, and this effect is easy to do for yourself using dry ice and other creative methods. But don’t think smoked cocktails are only for Halloween, you can infuse a smoke flavor into all kinds of drinks to create a cozy, woodsy, fall vibe.
~ Dini, aka The Flavor Bender, makes her own homemade shimmery liqueur for this gorgeous drink, then adds crushed dry ice for a subtle smoking effect. Classic Martini Glasses are a must for this cocktail.
~Half Baked Harvest creates an extra spooky atmosphere with smoking flasks and beakers! She colors her spooky cocktail partially black using activated charcoal, rims her glasses with black lava salt, and then adds a small amount of dry ice for the finishing touch.
~ Craft & Cocktails makes this fruity drink with an interesting cinnamon grapefruit syrup and a touch of absinthe. The long tapered cocktail glass really works to concentrate the dry ice smoke to great effect.
~ Wander Spice bases this interesting cocktail on a classic Basque drink called Kalimotxo ~ it’s equal parts cola and cheap red wine! Katherine takes this cocktail to the next level with a touch of gold lustre dust and gold leaf, both of which you can find on Amazon.
~ made with a homemade blueberry lavender simple syrup and lavender bitters over at Sugar and Charm. The bit of dry ice in the martini glass makes for that perfect grammable moment. Steel Skull Swizzle Sticks add to the drama!
What is dry ice?
- Dry ice looks like regular ice, but is actually solid carbon dioxide, and it’s a super cold -192F. In other words, it’s seriously cold stuff.
- When it ‘melts’ it turns directly back into a gas.
- Dry ice is used for lots of things like shipping, flash freezing, fighting fires, and of course, making awesome cocktails.
- Dry ice is sold in blocks or in pellet form.
Where can I buy dry ice?
- Many large supermarkets carry it, including Walmart and Costco. Call ahead to check.
- Purchase your ice shortly before you are going to use it because it melts away fairly quickly, so if possible pick it up a few hours before you’re going to use it. A 5 pound block of dry ice will evaporate in 24 hours.
How do I store dry ice?
- Keep dry ice in a styrofoam or insulated cooler with the lid ajar to allow air flow.
- Do not put your dry ice in your freezer or refrigerator, it can damage it.
- Don’t leave dry ice in a closed car or room, you need good ventilation so that the carbon dioxide doesn’t build up to a toxic level.
- Don’t set your dry ice directly on your counter top, it can cause it to crack.
- Be especially careful to keep your dry ice away from children and pets.
How to handle dry ice
- Do not touch dry ice with bare hands, it’s way too cold and will cause frostbite, use sturdy gloves to handle dry ice. Use tongs to put cubes into drinks.
How to dispose of dry ice
- Let the dry ice evaporate in a well ventilated area. Do not flush it down the toilet (it can burst your pipes!) put it in the trash, or leave it on the lawn where unsuspecting animals can come in contact with it.
How to use dry ice in cocktails
- Dry ice is safe to use in cocktails, it will not alter the flavor in any way. The ice will sink to the bottom of your glass, but take extra precaution not to ingest it or touch it in any way.
- You’ll need a hammer, screwdriver, and goggles to chisel your block of dry ice into ‘cubes’. You can also crush the ice for a more subtle effect.
- Drop the cubes (using tongs) into the bottom of your cocktail or punch bowl and it will immediately start to smoke.
- Since dry ice doesn’t melt into liquid, you can keep adding more as needed to a punch, for instance, and it will not dilute your recipe.
- Wait for the smoking to stop and the ice to completely melt before drinking your cocktail, it is not safe to drink while the dry ice is still present.
- Check out these cool swizzle sticks that encapsulate the dry ice for safe smoking effects.
Safety tips for dry ice
Dry ice is extremely cold and can cause burns or other injuries if not handled properly. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when using dry ice for cocktails:
- Use Gloves: Always wear insulated gloves when handling dry ice. This will protect your hands from frostbite or burns.
- Avoid Direct Contact: Never touch dry ice with your bare skin. Use tongs, gloves, or other utensils to handle it.
- Ventilation: When using dry ice indoors, make sure the area is well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of carbon dioxide gas, which can displace oxygen.
- Handling and Storage: Store dry ice in an insulated container or cooler. Handle dry ice with care to prevent it from coming into contact with your skin, eyes, or mouth.
- Breaking Dry Ice: If you need to break dry ice into smaller pieces for cocktails, use a hammer or mallet wrapped in a towel. Never use your hands to break it.
- Size of Dry Ice: Use dry ice pellets or chips rather than large blocks. Smaller pieces are easier to handle and pose less risk.
- Cocktail Preparation: When adding dry ice to cocktails, ensure that the dry ice is not consumed. It should only be used to create a visual effect and should not come into direct contact with the drink.
- Cooling Liquid: If you’re using dry ice in a liquid, make sure the liquid is not too hot. Extremely hot liquids can cause dry ice to sublimate rapidly, potentially leading to a buildup of pressure.
- Avoid Sealed Containers: Do not seal containers completely when using dry ice. Gas pressure can build up and cause containers to burst.
- Do Not Inhale Dry Ice Vapor: Do not inhale the vapor or gas produced by dry ice. The vapor is carbon dioxide, which can displace oxygen and be harmful if inhaled in concentrated amounts.
- Safe Amount: Use a small amount of dry ice in each cocktail, typically no more than a few pellets or chips, to create the desired effect.
- Educate Guests: If you’re serving cocktails with dry ice to guests, inform them about its presence and provide guidelines for safe consumption.
How to make smoked cocktails without dry ice
Don’t want to mess with dry ice? There are other ways to get a smokey effect in your cocktails. It’s not only super cool, the flavor is amazing. Here are three different ways to get that wonderful element of smoke into your drinks…
- Smoking Gun or Handheld Smoker: A smoking gun or handheld smoker is a device that generates smoke and directs it into a container. Here’s how to use it for smoking cocktails:
- Prepare your cocktail as usual in a glass or shaker.
- Place the smoking gun’s hose into the container with the cocktail.
- Light the wood chips or sawdust in the smoking gun.
- Turn on the smoking gun to release the smoke into the container.
- Cover the container with a lid or glass to trap the smoke.
- Allow the cocktail to infuse with the smoke for a short time (10-30 seconds) before removing the lid and serving.
- Smoking Herbs or Spices: Using herbs or spices that release smoke when heated can create a smoky aroma. Here’s how:
- Light a small bunch of dried herbs or spices (such as thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, or cloves) with a lighter.
- Blow out the flame, allowing the herbs or spices to smolder and release smoke.
- Place the smoldering herbs or spices on a heat-safe dish or tray.
- Invert a glass or cocktail shaker over the smoldering herbs or spices to capture the smoke.
- Prepare your cocktail in another glass or shaker, and then quickly place it over the inverted glass to trap the smoke.
- Lift the top glass to release the smoke and serve the cocktail.
- Smoky Glass Rimming: Infuse a smoky aroma into the glass itself by rimming it with smoked spices or wood:
- Dip the rim of the glass in a liquid, such as citrus juice or simple syrup.
- Dip the wet rim into a mixture of smoked spices, such as smoked paprika or smoked salt.
- Pour the cocktail into the rimmed glass, and the act of sipping will bring the smoky aroma to your senses.
- Smoking Garnish: Use a handheld lighter to light the tip of your garnish, i.e. a sprig of rosemary, citrus peel, or cinnamon stick, then blow out the flame and add it to your cocktail where it will smolder.
- Smoky Bitters: If you have access to smoky-flavored bitters, adding a few dashes to your cocktail can impart a smoky aroma and flavor.
~ Mel at this is Mel Drake makes smoking torches out of rosemary sprigs…genius! Then she actually smokes her glassware by setting the glass over the burning sprig while she mixes her drink. The technique is simple: light the tip of the rosemary with a lighter or torch until smoking (if it flames, just blow it out.) Place your glass over the sprig and let the smoke fill the glass. Add a fresh lit sprig to the drink to serve. The sprig will smolder beautifully and create a great aroma. Beautiful Old Fashioned glasses are a must!
Ansley from The Fit Peach uses a cinnamon stick to infuse her bourbon cocktail, which is perfect for fall and holiday entertaining. Oversized ice cubes are the best way to chill your smoked cocktails because large ice melts more slowly without diluting your drink.
~ Matt from Nomageddon smokes his own simple syrup with woods like pecan, maple, or apple. He puts a basic simple syrup in a 9×13 pan and smokes it in his outdoor smoker. He then uses his syrup to impart a sultry smokey flavor to his cocktails. Fruit Wood Chips are readily available online and in grilling stores.
Jay and Lea from Gastronom use a cloche to smoke their bourbon and brandy cocktail made with cherry bitters and a sage simple syrup. Sounds so good, doesn’t it?
Cool tools for homemade smoked cocktails
This smoker kit from Grammercy can be used to smoke cocktails, and also meats and cheeses, as well. I love the idea of trapping the smoke under a cloche and making a dramatic cocktail presentation for your friends!
This cocktail smoker kit is inexpensive and would make a great gift. I love that it comes with the wood chips, too.