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How to Pair the Right Wood Chips Your Smoked Cocktail

by Jim Passantino October 20, 2023 3 min read

How to Pair the Right Wood Chips Your Smoked Cocktail

The craft of smoking cocktails has rapidly evolved over the past several years. Cocktail smokers are more efficient and easier to use than ever. In less than a minute, an average drink can be smoked and elevated to a savory cocktail.

Smoked cocktails have also become more sophisticated with a variety of wood chip flavors.

Why Listen to Us?

At Aged & Charred, we've smoked about every combination of wood chips and craft cocktail imaginable. So, we'd like to share what we've learned. Before we go too far with this, it's important to understand everyone's taste is different.

So if you find a combination of wood chips and drink which creates the perfect profile for you, then enjoy every sip of it. There is no right or wrong pairing of wood chips and cocktail.

Main Types of Woods Used in Cocktails

Generally speaking, wood for cocktail is split into two categories: fruit wood and hard wood. Fruit woods tend to be a milder smoky flavor, vs. hard woods which have a more bold flavor.

Just like when you choose the right type of wood for smoking meat, the different breed of wood will add a slightly different smoke flavor. And just like smoking meat, some woods are better with different drinks than others.

Fruit Woods Like Cherry, Apple and Pear

Aged & Charred Cherry Cocktail Wood Chips

Fruit woods which are commonly manufactured for smoking drinks, specifically for smoking whiskey, are cherry, apple, peach and pear. Since these woods are milder, they are great to use with drinks which already have lots of flavor packed into them. In some cases you don't want the smoke to be the star of the show.

If you have a drink with plenty of flavor already, and you just want to add a subtle smoky finish to it, fruit wood is the way to go.

Margaritas, Caribbean, and various martinis are examples of cocktails which pack plenty of flavor and just need a hint of smoke. The subtle smoke flavor of apple wood is perfect for margaritas. Peach and cherry tend to pair well with fruity cocktail drinks.

Another example of when to use fruitwood vs. hardwood with your drink is if you're drinking whiskey neat. In this case, the whiskey is still great on its own but you make like to mix things up every once in awhile. Cherry wood is a great choice for smoking whiskey neat as the fruit wood flavors compliments the oak flavor of whiskey. The longer you let the smoke sit in the glass the stronger the smoke flavor will be.

Hard Woods Like Hickory and Oak

Aged & Charred Hickory Cocktail Wood Chips

So, when is a good time to use stronger wood flavor, such as hickory, oak, and mesquite with your drink? Well, if mild wood pairs well for cocktails which have a lot of flavor already packed in, hardwoods are great for simple cocktails containing just a few ingredients, especially cocktails with a whiskey or bourbon base. Old fashioneds and Manhattans are great examples.

Both of these are traditionally made with a rye whiskey or bourbon, and then mixed with bitters and simple syrup (old fashioned) or vermouth (Manhattan). The bold and smoky flavor of oak, hickory, and mesquite compliments the spicy flavor from the rye.

While any of these woods are a great choice for smoking old fashioned and manhattans, the hickory smoke on an old fashioned and oak on a manhattan are favorites of ours here at Aged & Charred.

Wrapping Things Up

As we said at the beginning, everyones taste is different. Experimenting with different smoke flavors on different drinks is a fun and entertaining way for you and your guests to find the right flavor combos. Enjoy the process!

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