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A guide to barbecued and smoked cocktails

A guide to barbecued and smoked cocktails

by Nancy Anne Harbord Friday, July 24, 2015

Barbecuing ingredients such as fruit before adding them to your cocktail adds extra layers of unique flavour – char, smoke and high-heat caramelisation. The smoker too can lend its own creative edge to delicate ingredients. Get summer cocktail recipes, learn how to smoke ice cubes and start experimenting with your own concoctions with our guide.

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

One of the delights of a bright, sunny summer is barbecue. I have recently thrown myself into experimenting with the medium, looking past the obvious veggie burgers and halloumi kebabs. This weekend that experimentation took me into the world of barbecued cocktails – using components prepared on the barbecue to add an interesting summer twist to your favourite boozy combinations.

After trying various different kinds of fruit, I can report that some work better than others. Choose sturdier fruits that have the fibre and low water content to stand up to the heat and stress of the grill. High sugar fruits like pineapple also caramelise beautifully. Citrus is a good choice, as are slightly firm stone fruits such peaches and nectarines. If you don’t have access to a barbecue, a griddle pan can be substituted – the char will be very similar, but the smokiness will be a little lighter.

And while you’re firing up the barbecue (or the griddle), consider getting the smoker going. You can hot-smoke over the barbecue, but the high heat makes it unsuitable for many ingredients and applications. Instead I use a dedicated cold-smoker – it’s easy to store, very little trouble to use and the results are exciting! You can even use a smoker inside, should you be reading this from a small city flat with no outdoor space. It generates a tiny amount of smoke, which is how the temperature stays low enough to cure delicate foods. The flat may smell a touch smoky, but that is a small price to pay.

To employ this technique for cocktails, one option is to smoke whole fruit. I recall a particularly memorable cocktail that included whole, cold-smoked citrus – that brooding, smoky lime margarita is not easily forgotten.

But the smoking techniques I describe in this guide can be used no matter what the ingredients of the cocktail, whenever you think that some smokiness will enhance the drink. By smoking either the glass or the ice cubes used to make the drink (or both) you can bring this extra layer of aroma and flavour to all your favourite recipes.

Barbecued pineapple mojito royale

The base of this moreish cocktail echoes the ingredients of a classic mojito royale – muddled lime, mint, rum and sugar, topped up with sparkling wine. The charred pineapple pieces add yet more layers of flavour – deep caramelised sweetness and aromatic smokiness.

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Barbecued pineapple
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Fresh, fragrant mint

How to smoke ice cubes

By smoking ice cubes until they melt, then refreezing the flavourful water, you can bring new flavour and tang to any drink. Take the smoking technique from this how to smoke ice cubes guide and create your own unique drink. Or for a recipe, try my Smoked gin and tonic, described below.

Golden barbecued margarita

This golden margarita gets it colour from the tequila, honey and charred citrus. A strong, concentrated, tangy drink, there are complex layers of fruit, acid, sugar and smoke.

 
 
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An elegant golden cocktail
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Charred lemons add a smoky tang

Smoked gin and tonic

This cocktail uses a citrus-heavy, small batch gin, natural tonic, fresh lime wedges and plenty of smoked ice cubes to put an unusual twist on a well-loved classic. To further enhance the smokiness, use a smoked cocktail glass as well.

 
 
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Refreshing and perfect for summer
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Smoked ice cubes and glasses add to the flavour

Barbecued pineapple and mint refresher

A variation of the previous mojito recipe, this cocktail uses the same flavour base – sweet, charred pineapple, fresh floral mint, lime and light rum – but is turned into a refreshing long drink with plenty of crushed ice and soda water. Instead of crushing the ingredients and straining, the fruit and herbs are mixed in the glass, so when you’ve finished drinking you can start snacking.

 
 
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A delicious long drink
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Vibrant and full of flavour

How to smoke cocktail glasses

Enhance any drink with an extra layer of smokiness by cold-smoking the glass. You can prepare these in advance, but if you pour the drinks within five minutes of smoking the glasses, the whole drink will give off flavourful, aromatic wisps. Very dramatic!

Designing your own cocktail creations

But these are just my suggestions – there are almost endless possibilities for experimentation with these techniques. Try grilling some of your favourite fruit or smoking other components – you can cold-smoke pretty much anything! And do let us know how you get on…

 
 
 

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