Something about drinking certain types of alcoholic beverages just calls for smoking. It’s a social thing. It’s not good for you. Actually it’s worse for you than just drinking. And yet the enjoyment of the experience just gets amplified.
Drinking tea in the afternoon is one thing. Drinking hibiscus tea and smoking a hookah is an experience that is social and yet brings out flavors in that tea that would not be there without the smoke.
A good cognac with a cigar is a classic way to end a meal. The cigar loses its harshness and just becomes silky smooth. All of a sudden you taste those tasting notes on the bottle that can easily come off as far-fetched to the occasional avec aficionado. My absolute favorite Bordeaux wine pairing is not a steak. It’s a Macanudo.
My girlfriend doesn’t smoke really but she does when she’s had a few too many “Jamos” out on the town. I can’t stand cigarettes personally but something about seeing her in that specific situation tempts me to take a puff and I actually enjoy it for a quick second. Smoke, in moderation, adds a whole new element to a night of indulgence.
But smoke and alcohol have a history together that goes beyond the actual intake of carbon. And this works out well because the fact of the matter is that encouraging smoking would just be plain bad advice and horribly politically incorrect.
Luckily for us there are several smoky beverages out there that have already taken those pleasurable aspects of smoke and transformed them into aromas that are pleasing to our palates.
Scotch is the classic “smoky” whisky. Having said that, not all of them have that characteristic but the vast majority get their “peaty” flavors from peat moss that is roasted with malted barley, which in turn becomes whiskey down the line. If you want to smoke without smoking, just drink a Laphroaig the next time you are out and you’ll see what I mean.
Even American whiskey uses smoke in that most barrels that the liquid is aged in (which is what gives it color) are first charred inside prior to pouring in virgin whiskey. High West even produced a “Campfire Whiskey” that brings us back to s’mores time. Other producers such as McCarthy’s in Oregon actually use peat just like in Scotland to bring out those smoky characteristics.
Mezcal is another classic spirit that brings out smoke in a bottle. This sister to Tequila is for the most part made with Agave that has been roasted over an open fire before pressing into a liquid that later becomes Mezcal. The finished product takes on those initial impressions that started during the roasting phase and Mezcal on the market has only become better over the last decade.
Then of course who could forget smoked porters and smoked cheeses. At the Grant Grill we have smoked sugar and cocktails with a smoking gun (yes it exists). One could go on and on.
The world of food and beverage would simply not be the same without the bi-product of fire so as the Summer starts to come to a close I encourage you to greet Fall with a little exploration into the liquid side of smoke!
In just three years, level 2 CMS Sommelier and Master Mixologist Jeff Josenhans has changed the dynamic in The Grant Grill Downtown from a classic institution to an exciting lounge and elegant restaurant. Taking the kitchen’s “Farm to Table” philosophy to the bar, he has developed a seasonal cocktail program based largely on the hotel’s rooftop garden. He can be reached at email@example.com.