Today I give you a magic trick for your guests (and drinks): the transforming cocktail. Now, for most of you who go out and enjoy a cocktail or three, the idea of a cocktail changing flavor as you drink it shouldn’t be too strange to you. But I’ve found it’s the usual roster of changing flavors, Campari ice, fruity ice, familiar flavors that transform your drink from this to that. But earlier this year when I was hosting the SMOKE MxMo, Raul from Death to Sour Mix sent me a link to this guy (strangely enough from a site that Christopher has looked at for BBQ) that had tested and given detailed instructions for making your own smoked ice. His ice cubes were going into a Bloody Mary, which seems like a perfect vehicle for smoky flavors, but I wanted to take that idea and put it into an unexpected cocktail.
I had pitched this idea over on the Serious Eats site, and they also thought it was a cool idea. And now I’m making sure all of you get a chance to play around with it too. OK, granted you will need some special equipment, although if you want to MacGyver a roasting pan with a grate and tinfoil, that works surprisingly well too. Now, if you’re wondering how complicated it is to create smoked ice, allow me to reassure you: it is simple.
Since I tinkered awhile with this technique, here are some tips to consider:
- A smoker makes this easy. Whether it’s a stovetop smoker, or an electric smoker (which is what we have already), it means just dumping wood in and starting a fire. Easy.
- The type of wood you use is important! Apple wood is very mild. Mesquite is quite strong. It really just depends on your tastes, but I would consider playing with a few if you’re already gone this far considering it.
- The size of your ice matters! Do you want your drink to quickly taste of smoke? Use small ice that melt fast. Want your cocktail to take its time changing flavors? Use big ice.
- And speaking of ice, yes, it totally makes sense scientifically that starting with ice cubes, letting them melt, and then refreezing them will give you smokier ice cubes per the principle of thermophoresis.
- Lastly, consider your cocktail. If you have doubts that smoke will improve, or at least make interesting, your drink, then perhaps you should pick another to work with.
1 tray ice cubes
Wood chips for smoking
stovetop or electric smoker
- Place ice cubes in baking dish or pie plate. Following instructions of your smoker, heat wood chips until smoking. Set dish of ice in smoker, cover, and smoke until ice has melted, 10 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, line bottom of roasting pan with aluminum foil and arrange 1/2 cup wood chips on one side of pan. Using a butane torch or long-reach lighter, carefully burn wood chips until smoking but not in flames. Carefully set rack in roasting pan, set dish of ice on rack opposite the wood chips, cover, and smoke until ice has melted, 10 to 20 minutes.
- Pour smoked water into ice-cube tray and freeze.
For the cocktail, I wanted something a bit surprising that would really showcase how the smoked ice slowly changed the flavors of the drink. I’ve created this recipe specifically to highlight that transformation; you can, however, think of it as a suggestion or a first-timer’s guide… and then feel free to try the same technique on another drink. This cocktail, the Hazy Sunset, is at first sip a tropical, Tiki-inspired pineapple-rum drink. However, as the ice cubes melt, it starts to add just a subtle hint of smoke until the entire drink is transformed into a rich, almost savory sipper. A long way from its beginnings.
Ready to try those smoked ice cubes in a drink now?
1-1/2 ounces light rum, such as 10 Cane
1/2 ounce overproof rum, such as Lemon Hart Demerara
2 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
non-smoked ice cubes for mixing
Smoked ice cubes
Fresh cherry, pineapple chunk, and mint sprig, for garnish
Add both rums, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 full with non-smoked ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add smoked ice cubes to a double rocks glass, and strain cocktail into glass. Garnish with a cherry, pineapple chunk, and mint sprig. Serve immediately.
If you try this experiment out, I’d love to hear what you’re using them in!