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"Mixology" has officially gotten a little out of hand. Who hasn't witnessed a mustachioed barman pour 37 different ingredients into one coupe glass divinely sprinkled with unicorn tears, rimmed in saffron dust with a sprig of hibiscus plucked by trained monkeys in Pakistan?
The point is this: Remove all the pomp and circumstance, all the flair and drama, all the smoke and mirrors -- well maybe not all the smoke, actually -- and you might just discover a new favorite cocktail with a unique flavor all its own.
Because there's nothing new under the sun, the smoked cocktail trend is coming around ... again. I believe the last time we saw it come around was back in early 2009. The latest incarnation of these may include smoked or burnt herbs, fruit, ice or even the liquor itself.
The key to adding any strong flavors to a mixed drink is to do so with restraint. With smoke, less is more. Here are a few well played smoky cocktails we've stumbled across recently.
Nectar of Oaxaca at Lark on the Park (above) Montelobos Mezcal, Ancho Reyes, agave nectar and bitters mingle deliciously in this sexy cocktail at Lark. Mezcal is roasted underground, imparting its distinct smoky flavor. Ancho Reyes is an ancho chile liqueur, which adds another layer of smoke to the mix. A little flame on the rind adds yet one more. And it doesn't hurt when a charming bartender flashes you his smile either.
Summer Smoke at Meddlesome Moth This unique cocktail combines raspberry-hibiscus whiskey, sugar and smoked lemon juice for a sip that's at once rich with smoke, and somehow light enough for summer sipping.
The Brimstone at The Standard Pour The Standard Pour has become known for a certain degree of mad science behind the bar. The Brimstone is no exception. Listed under the heading "For The Adventurous Imbiber," it features Brimstone smoked whiskey, citrus spiced tea-infused vermouth, Benedictine and root beer bitters. That's all well and good, but the preparation is quite the spectacle. The 'tender takes a pile of wood chips and lights 'em up, smoking the inside of your cocktail glass before adding ice and the cocktail itself. Order one of these if you're looking to make friends at the bar. One new friend said, "This tastes like drinking whiskey ... while your house is on fire."
Smoked Pepper Bloody Mary at FM Smokehouse Finding a smoked cocktail at a barbecue joint shouldn't come as that much of a shock. But we're guessing not too many of the barbecue spots in town infuse their own vodka or offer a smoked bloody for brunch. Smoke on top of smoke? Only in Texas. This spicy thing features house-infused smoked jalapeño vodka. It's hot.
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The Dove Tail at Blind Butcher There's no actual fire here, just another use of smoky Mezcal, this time combined with a grapefruit cordial and soda to create something fruity enough to stand up to the menu, but smoky too, because meat.
Smoked cocktails are not just in fashion, but they come around seasonally as well. So wait a month or so and expect to see more and more smoke come around to warm you in fall and winter.