Smoked Old-Fashioned

Meet the Smoked Old-Fashioned, the classic cocktail married with the mesmerizing allure of smoke. Learn how to add this captivating flavor and experience to your cocktails and make an irresistible twist on a beloved classic.

Smoke rises from a rocks glass filled with a cocktail.

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Smoked Old-Fashioned recipe

Smoked cocktails have overtaken the bartending world over the last few years.

It is undoubtedly exciting and fun to order a smoked cocktail that arrives at your table, smoke filling the room with its comforting fireside aroma. It is certainly a spectacle — and makes everyone in the bar want one.

But what if you could bring that same magic to your own kitchen? With the help of a blow torch and some wood chips, you too can make smoked cocktails at home.

The old-fashioned cocktail is one of the best cocktails you can make in a smoked version. Strong whiskey lends itself well to the flavor of smoke, an extra layer of complexity for an already flavorful cocktail.

When you add a garnish of burnt rosemary and a few dashes of your favorite bitters, your homemade smoked old-fashioned will rival that of any cocktail bar.

My husband and I make one of these just about every weekend, so today we are sharing all of our tips to make this fun twist on these classic bourbon cocktails. 

More old-fashioned recipes: Irish Old-FashionedMaple Old-FashionedPeanut Butter & Jelly Old-Fashioned

An Old Fashioned cocktail sits beside decorative wooden coasters and a gold cocktail jigger.

Why you’ll love this recipe

A Smoked Old-Fashioned is an exquisite upgrade on the classic old-fashioned cocktail. It really takes it to the next level. 

  • The smoke flavor adds a delicious dimension to a cocktail. Whiskey handles this exceptionally well.
  • It is a fun way to elevate your cocktail-making skills. Once you know how to smoke one cocktail, you can try it with others.
  • Smoking a glass is an impressive way to prepare a drink for your next party.

If you are making drinks for friends or a dinner party, a smoked old-fashioned has a modern twist that is sure to impress. 

This recipe is a fun one to try for date nights. Plus, a cocktail smoker and butane torch is a great gift idea for a whiskey lover. 

Rosemary garnishes a whiskey cocktail in a rocks glass.

What is an old-fashioned?

An Old-Fashioned is a classic cocktail known for its simplicity and timeless appeal. It is typically made with whiskey, often bourbon, although other variations can feature rye whiskey, aged rum, or even mezcal.

Old-Fashioned cocktails are known for their spirit-forward nature, allowing the rich flavors of the chosen whiskey to shine through. Typically, they steer clear of mixers like sour mix or soda, keeping the focus on the delightful complexity of the base spirit.

When crafting an Old-Fashioned, small but mighty flavor elements are added to complement the whiskey. Typically it includes a hint of bitter orange zest, a tantalizing cocktail cherry, and the magic of aromatic bitters. To balance out the flavors and bring a touch of sweetness, a sugar cube or simple syrup comes into play, adding a delightful twist to the mix.

While this classic drink traditionally features any type of whiskey, often bourbon, we’re about to discover a captivating twist by infusing it with the mesmerizing allure of smoke.

Bourbon is poured into a glass over a large square ice cube.

Ingredients

These are the main ingredients you’ll need to make a Smoked Old-Fashioned at home:

Whiskey

Old-fashioneds can be made with any whiskey, but bourbon is the classic. This recipe will also work with rye, Irish, whiskey, scotch, and even other spirits like mezcal or rum.

You can use just about any brand of bourbon whiskey. If you have a favorite, start with that. If you don’t, we love Old Forester, Four Roses, Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace, Angel’s Envy, Bulleit, Tin Cup and Woodford Reserve.

Simple syrup

The old-fashioned cocktail typically has some kind of sweetener. Some prefer a sugar cube; others use simple syrup. Simple syrup is a great way to infuse more flavor into your old-fashioned drink.

I used brown sugar syrup for this cocktail, which you can make with brown sugar and water. Demerara syrup is similar, or you could use pure maple syrup. 

But you can get creative with other flavors if you like. Try it with rosemary syrup, peach syrup, or even my old-fashioned syrup, which has bitters already added so you can make old-fashioneds quickly and easily.

Bitters fall from a dropper into a glass filled with ice and bourbon.

Bitters

Bitters adds yet another layer of flavor to the old-fashioned cocktail. The most classic is Angostura bitters, a type of aromatic bitters. It has a strong, spiced, fruity and bitter flavor.

With the smoked flavor, it can be a good idea to choose a flavor of bitters that goes well with the flavor of smoke. You could opt for ginger bitters (as I did), chocolate bitters or orange bitters. Spicy bitters would also be fun.

Ice

Ice is the unofficial cocktail ingredient. Most cocktails are served with small ice cubes but old fashions are usually served with a big cube or ball of ice.

The shape of a large ice cube has less surface area than a lot of little cubes, so it takes longer to melt and, as such, dilute your drink. You can make this cut of ice at home with a sphere ice mold or a large ice mold.

You can also experiment with making clear ice at home. This is my favorite because it reduces the impurities in the ice and allows it to melt much slower without the crackling and breaking you get from regular ice.

Garnishes

A piece of orange zest provides a zing of citrus flavor, and a sprig of singed rosemary makes for an elaborate garnish for this smoky cocktail.

You can also use a cocktail cherry, a piece of orange zest or experiment with burning other fresh herbs like thyme or basil.

A classic whiskey cocktail sits beside wooden coasters and herb sprigs.

Variations and substitutions

Non-alcoholic smoked cocktail: Use a zero-proof spirit such as Ritual whiskey alternative to make this a no- or low-alcohol drink.

No lighter? Try making the drink with burnt sugar syrup, made by over-caramelizing sugar to the point of burning. This adds an even deeper burnt flavor to the cocktail. You could also try making smoked simple syrup by preparing it in a smoker.

Change up the flavors: Use other flavors of syrup, a smoked cinnamon stick or other smoked herbs to come up with your own creations.

A smoker kit sits on top of a rocks glass, infusing a whiskey cocktail.

Equipment for smoked cocktails

Yes, this cocktail does require special equipment. There are a few essential items to use for smoking a cocktail, and what you need depends on which method you want to try. 

With either method, a blow torch, also called a butane torch, is ideal for creating a big flame and lots of smoke. A regular lighter also works, but it’s less efficient.

You’ll also need wood chips to burn. You can also use whole spices such as a cinnamon stick. Wood chips come in all types of wood: cherry wood, apple wood, oak, beech, pear, to name a few.

A bamboo cocktail smoker sits on a white marble surface next to a black tray of wood chips.
Wood chips sit in the metal filter of a round bamboo cocktail smoker.

When you get to the burning, it is safest to use a cocktail smoker, a device designed specifically for smoking drinks. You can also use a wooden board.

Some restaurants and bars serve smoked drinks with glass domes, which collect the smoke and result in a gorgeous presentation of smoke when pulled off the drink.

Glassware

It’s traditional to serve and old-fashioned cocktail in old-fashioned glasses, also called rocks glasses.

These are short, glass tumblers. When you raise a rocks glass to your mouth, your nose is closer to the liquid, allowing you to breathe in the drink’s fragrance, enhancing each sip.

A Smoked Old Fashioned cocktail is garnished with a sprig of burning rosemary.

How to make a Smoked Old-Fashioned

Making a smoked old-fashioned is much like making it classic, old-fashioned, but with the added  element of smoke.

When you prepare the drink, you can either do it in a cocktail shaker, mixing glass or right in the glass you’ll serve it in, depending on which smoking method you use. (More on that in the next section.)

  1. Stir together the simple syrup and the whiskey.
  2. Add the bitters and any short garnishes. (Tall ones like rosemary should wait til the end.)
  3. If you will be smoking it in the glass, go ahead and add the ice cube. If you are smoking the glass separately, smoke the glass, add the ice cube and pour the drink over top.
  4. Lastly, finish it off with some garnishes. Add a piece of orange zest or a sprig of rosemary for extra aroma. Light the rosemary on fire with your lighter to give it extra smoky fragrance.
A cocktail smoker sits next to a cocktail with a large square ice cube, orange peel and herb sprig.

Methods for smoking cocktails

There are two main ways to smoke a drink. Let’s get into them.

1. Board method

One method of creating smoke in the whiskey glass is to use a soaked wooden board or another heat-safe surface.

  1. You’ll soak the board in water. It should be damp but not dripping. No beads of water should be visible. 
  2. Placed dry wood chips on top. Give them a blast a fire with the smoke gun, butane torch or lighter. 
  3. Working quickly, place a dome or an empty glass upside-down on top.
  4. Leave it there for about 30 seconds to a couple of minutes — smoke will fill the glass. The lack of oxygen inside will force the flame to fizzle out.
  5. If you are using a glass: Turn it right side up and pour the cocktail (that you made in a mixing glass or another glass) right into the smoke.
  6. If you are using a dome: place this glass upside down on top of your already-made cocktail. When you serve it to the lucky drinker, slowly remove the dome on top to make a very smoky presentation.
a butane torch lights wood chips on fire in a cocktail smoker over an old-fashioned cocktail.

2. Cocktail smoker method

Another method is to use a cocktail smoker. These are devices designed specifically for smoking a glass.

This is my preferred method because it is easier and safer.

These smoker devices are usually made of two parts: a tray with a wire basket for the wood chips and a wooden lid. Sometimes the basket is removable for cleaning.

  1. Place about a tablespoon of wood chips in the basket and rest it on top of the drink.
  2. Light the wood chips on fire and quickly top with the lid to seal in the smoke.
  3. Let the smoke billow and swirl inside of the glass for about a minute or so.
  4. Then, lift the device off the cocktail and it will be filled with swaths of smoke.
  5. Then you are ready to smoke the drink.
a Smoked Old-Fashioned has smoke billowed inside of the glass.

Safety tips

  • Always make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Have a pair of oven mitts on hand to handle hot glassware.
  • Always direct the butane torch away from you, others and things that could catch fire.
  • Don’t overfill the basket with wood chips.
  • If you are burning wood chips on a wooden board, make sure the board has been moistened so that it does not catch fire. Do not use a plastic board.
  • Enjoy the smoke as it billows, but wait to take a sip until the smoke has withered away.

What to serve with a Smoked Old-Fashioned

Serve this tasty cocktail with some smoked dishes! 

Munch on spicy smoked Chex mix or cheesy popcorn while you sip your drink before dinner.

Another delicious appetizer would be rosemary smoked meatballs or smoked brie.

For dinner, smoked bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin would be a show-stopping entrée.

It would also be delicious at a barbecue featuring smoked brisket or pulled pork with a side of fried pickles.

For dessert, some chocolate bourbon pecan pie or s’mores with bourbon marshmallows would be a big hit.

top view of a smoked old-fashioned.

FAQ

What kind of wood is used for smoked old-fashioneds?

You can use different types of wood for smoking cocktails to change the flavor profile. Applewood and cherry make cocktails have a sweeter flavor, while oak or hickory will have a deeper, woody flavor. Pecan and walnut will lend a nutty aroma.

How do you smoke a glass for an old-fashioned?

There are two main ways to smoke a glass. One way is to burn wood chips on a heat-safe board, then place an empty glass upside down over the flame. The glass will fill with smoke. You can then pour the cocktail into the glass.
You can also purchase cocktail smokers, essentially lids that you fill with wood chips to smoke the interior of the glass. Prepare the cocktail in the glass, then add the smoker and light the wood chips. Cover with the lid and let the smoke billow around the drink. Then remove the lid for a stunning presentation of smoke.

What is a smoked glass cocktail?

When smoke from burnt wood chips fills a glass, the glass — and the drink then poured inside — takes on the smell and flavor of the smoke, giving it an intensified aroma and taste.

Why do people smoke whiskey?

Smoking whiskey enriches the flavor, adding the aromas of burnt wood and smoke. The aroma can change depending on the type of wood or aromatic used.

More old-fashioned cocktail recipes

— Did you make this recipe? —

Please leave a ★★★★★ review or comment below.

A classic whiskey cocktail sits beside wooden coasters and herb sprigs.

Smoked Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Stunning and fragrant at once, the Smoked Old-Fashioned will take your cocktail skills to new heights.
5 from 47 votes
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ingredients

  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
  • ¼ ounce brown sugar simple syrup
  • 2 dashes ginger bitters
  • 1 4-inch piece orange zest
  • 1 rosemary sprig for garnish
  • large ice cube or sphere

instructions

Make the drink.

  • In a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, stir together the bourbon and simple syrup.
  • Add the bitters and orange zest.
  • If you are smoking the glass on a board: Smoke the glass (instructions below), add the ice cube and pour the drink over the top.
  • If you will be smoking with a cocktail smoker: Add the ice cube, pour the drink over top and smoke the drink (instructions below).
  • Place the rosemary in the drink and carefully light the end on fire to give it an extra smoky fragrance.

On a board

  • You’ll soak the board in water. It should be damp but not dripping. No beads of water should be visible.
  • Placed dry wood chips on top. Give them a blast a fire with the butane torch or a lighter.
  • Working quickly, place a dome or an empty glass upside-down on top.
  • Leave it there for about 30 seconds to a minute — smoke will fill the glass. The lack of oxygen inside will force the flame to fizzle out.
  • If you are using a glass: Turn it right side up and pour the cocktail (made in a mixing glass or another glass) right into the smoke.
  • If you are using a dome: Place the dome upside-down on top of your already-made cocktail. When you serve it to the lucky drinker, slowly remove the dome to make a smoky presentation.

With a cocktail smoker

  • Place about a tablespoon of wood chips in the basket. Don't overfill it. Rest the basket on top of the drink.
  • Light the wood chips on fire and quickly top with the lid to seal in the smoke.
  • Let the smoke billow and swirl inside of the glass for about a minute or so.
  • Then, lift the device off the cocktail and it will be filled with swaths of smoke.

notes

Follow instructions for your specific cocktail smoker.

Safety tips

  • Always make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Have a pair of oven mitts on hand to handle hot glassware.
  • Always direct the butane torch away from you, others and things that could catch fire.
  • Don’t overfill the basket with wood chips.
  • If you are burning wood chips on a wooden board, make sure the board has been moistened so that it does not catch fire. Do not use a plastic board.
  • Enjoy the smoke as it billows, but wait to take a sip until the smoke has withered away.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail

amount per serving:

Serving: 1oz Calories: 230kcal Carbohydrates: 8g Sodium: 3mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 5g
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Comments

  1. Jennifer says

    What a great cocktail! I’m excited to make my own at home after trying one of these smoked drinks at a bar. Looks great!

  2. Carol Byrd says

    5 stars
    The brown sugar simple is a game changer, and this recipe’s detailed instructions for how to use a smoker gave us confidence to try ours!

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