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Smoke The Glass vs. Smoke The Cocktail

by Jim Passantino September 15, 2022 3 min read

Smoky cocktail, smoked whiskey

If you've jumped on the smoked cocktail bandwagon (welcome aboard btw!) then you may have noticed different methods for smoking a cocktail.  There are two primary ways to smoke a cocktail. You can smoke the glass, with or without ice, before the drink is added, or you can smoke the glass after the drink has been added and it's ready to be served.  Let's review these options and the pros and cons of each.  

Should I smoke the glass or smoke the drink? There is no right or wrong method here. There are pros and cons to each. Smoking the glass provides a smooth smoky flavor throughout the enjoyment of a cocktail. Smoking the drink after it's poured and ready to be served also provides the smoky flavor and aroma you desire, in addition to a dramatic presentation.  

Let's discuss these options in more detail.

Technique 1: Smoke the glass before adding the drink  

When preparing a smoked cocktail, such as a smoked whiskey, old fashioned, or manhattan, you may prefer to smoke the glass first before adding the drink to the glass.  With this method the smoke will rest in the glass and cling to the glass as well as any ice which maybe included. Be sure to let the smoke rest in the glass for 10  - 20 seconds before pouring in the ingredients. 

Since the drink is surrounded by smoke throughout the glass, you can expect a smooth smoky flavor from the first sip til the last.  The smoke mingles with all parts of the cocktail as it moves around the glass.  This method may also be preferred by anyone consuming the drink who is sensitive to smoke or just doesn't like the smoke present on top of the glass when it's served. 

This method would also be effective when preparing a drink in a tall glass, such as a highball or Tom Collins. This way the smoke makes it all the way to the bottom and can be enjoyed throughout consumption. Cocktail smokers, such as the Smoke Lid and Smoke Barrel, from Aged & Charred were specifically designed to quickly produce just the right amount of smoke for a drink.  

The only real downside to smoking the glass first, is by the time you pour the drink in, most of the remaining smoke is pushed out of the glass.  So, when it is served it does not have the same presentation effect as a drink served with smoke rolling off the top so the aroma can be taken in as much as the flavor.

Pro Tip: Experiment with different types of wood chips for cocktail smokers to get just the right aroma and flavor.  

Technique 2: Smoke the whiskey, bourbon, or mixed cocktail after the drink has been poured

When smoking your drink of choice after it has been poured, you should expect a rich smoky flavor and aroma while enjoying the drink, in addition to the stunning presentation of a cocktail served with smoke swirling on top.  With this method, prepare your cocktail, mocktail, or other beverage just as you normally would, being sure to leave at least one inch of space at the top. 

After the drink is poured, smoke the cocktail and allow the smoke to rest for 10 - 20 seconds before serving.  An exceptional cocktail, or meal for that matter, starts with a great presentation.  Then the aroma has you delighted before the first sip hits your mouth.  With these two starting points, any cocktail is sure to be a hit.  

If there is a downside to this method, you may noticed the taste of the smoke is not as bold at the end of the drink as it is at the beginning, although the it never really goes away.  A mild smoke flavor will remain in the drink til the end.  

Pro tip: If the cocktails need to be delivered to the lucky patron after it has been smoked, placing a coaster over the top of the glass to contain the smoke is a great way to maintain the smoky cocktail presentation after it's delivered.


Smoking the glass and smoking the drink are both fine options.  As with drinking any bourbon, whiskey or mixed drink, go with whatever method you prefer and you can't go wrong.  In some cases one method may be preferred over the other depending on the drink being prepared, the type of glass being used, or the setting where it's served.  Cheers!

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