Isolation breeds creativity. At least, it certainly has for me with regard to mixed drinks. Maybe it’s because I have more contact with my liquor cabinet working from home, or because of how generally tense everything feels right now, but whatever the reason, I’ve taken this opportunity to experiment with different drinks and techniques. With limited ingredients and tools, can I expand my knowledge of advanced cocktail techniques?
Infusing smoke into a cocktail has been my focus the past few days. Without a fancy smoke gun, I would simply invert the serving glass over a burning brand of cinnamon or rosemary as I prepared the drink, then attempt to pour the drink in quickly once I righted the glass. This technique worked more like rinsing the glass with a spirit, but with less efficacy—any flavor imparted by the smoke dissipated quickly, and very little, if any, made it into the cocktail itself. So I had to modify my technique.
After doing some research with help from Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence, I settled on trying to smoke the drink in a spirit bottle. To do so, light whatever material you’re trying to capture and invert an empty bottle on top of it. Once the bottle fills with smoke, pour your spirit or drink into the bottle and seal it, then shake or swirl to incorporate. The more you agitate the spirit in the smoke, the more flavor you’ll infuse into the drink.
With that technique in mind, I raided my fridge and liquor cabinet and decided on a refreshing drink to combat any cabin fever I may be experiencing. This was the result:
Smoked Cinnamon Highball
- 1.5 oz rum (I used Flor de Caña 4 year)
- 0.75 oz Lakkalikööri
- 0.75 oz lime juice
- 3 dashes key lime bitters
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 4 oz tonic water
- 1 cinnamon stick
Mix the rum, lakka, lime juice, and bitters together in a glass. Light the cinnamon stick on fire and invert a bottle over it until the bottle fills with smoke. Pour the drink into the bottle and shake for ten seconds, then pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with tonic water and stir gently to combine. Garnish with the burnt cinnamon stick and a lime wheel.
I avoided talking more about the citrus flavor of the Finnish cloudberry liqueur when I used it in my Rainbow Sherbet Fizz because it’s hard to describe, but I think I’ve got it now. It has a very slight medicinal quality—sweet lemon and echinacea. The tartness of the lime and the bitters smooth out that medicinal quality and everything interacts beautifully here, providing an unconventionally sweet citrus base to compliment the mild rum. I used Q tonic water, which is sweet as well but retains some of the original quinine bite tonic is known for. However, the cinnamon smoke is the real star of the show here. Spicy and ever-so-slightly astringent, the smoke cuts through the sweetness and balances everything out, making this drink supremely refreshing.
I initially left out the dash of Angostura bitters, but it’s a necessary addition. Without it, the cinnamon smoke feels a little out of place without a base cinnamon reference in the drink itself. Adding just a little spice to the drink lets you taste the cinnamon both on your tongue and in your nose, building layers of flavor at different levels.
I’m already looking forward to using this smoking technique for future cocktails. My next project: a smoked clarified milk punch.