The Tinderbox Cocktail

Tinderbox Cocktail

Admit it…..we’re all more or less suckers for pomp and circumstance when it comes to cocktails. Between little plastic mermaids, mustachioed glass markers, and hollowed-out coconuts with loopy straws, the modern cocktail never has to go unaccessorized. No trip to the beach is complete without little umbrellas in happy colors and a night in the city requires the twisted bamboo swizzle.

The trump, though, is flair that not only ups the ante aesthetically, but brings with it a new flavor component.

smoking glass

The first time Mark and I had a smoked cocktail was during a night of bar-hopping following a marathon day of interviews back in the fall.  The bartender had a funky little smoke gun that flooded the glass with gray wisps that swirled about, leaving behind the scent and slight taste of campfires, cozy nights and the golden crust of toasted marshmallows.

Hesitant to spring for a smoke gun ourselves, we were temporarily stymied as to how to make these in our own kitchen. Then a couple weeks ago we sat down to a bartender who made one using nothing but a small cast iron skillet and blowtorch.

Smoked Glass Tools

Now on the right path, we picked up one of these extra small skillets, broke out our blowtorch and spent an evening pairing all manner of cocktails with smoke. One interesting discovery we made in the process was that if your glass has a quick rinse with the main liquor in the cocktail (in this case bourbon) it retains more of the smoke flavor.

Step 1:
Mix cocktail in shaker and have at the ready.

Step 2:
Give the glass a quick rinse with a little bourbon.

Glass Rinse

Step 3:
Place a chunk of wood in skillet. We used cherry, though hickory or applewood (basically anything but mesquite) would also work well.

Flaming Wood

Step 4:
Run the flame of a blowtorch over the wood until it has charred and ignited.

Step 5:
Place the glass down over the wood and let fill with smoke. IMPORTANT: Make sure that the inside of the glass is only lightly coated with the bourbon and is not dripping when you go to turn the glass over. Excess alcohol that comes into contact with a smoldering or flaming piece of wood can result in flare-ups. 

Lowering Glass

Step 6:
Remove the glass, turn it upright and fill with cocktail and ice or garnishes. Serve immediately.

You can use this method with just about any cocktail that you think would benefit from a little smokiness, but there are few liquors that pair better than bourbon. We created this simple cocktail so that both the bourbon and smoke particularly shine.

Note: In this process you have alcohol and flame in close proximity. Be careful, and as always, keep a method of extinguishing fires close at hand.

Bourbon and Maraschino

5.0 from 1 reviews
The Tinderbox Cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
This is a strong, spirit-forward cocktail. If you like your drink on the sweeter side, up the simple syrup to ½ oz.
  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • ¼ oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • ¼ oz Simple Syrup
  1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and stir.
  2. Pour into smoked glass and serve neat or on the rocks.


12 thoughts on “The Tinderbox Cocktail

    • Thanks Greg! We’ll have to try that out next time. The light show definitely gets a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd. :)

  1. I interviewed a bartender in my town a few weeks ago and the drink he made while I was there included smoking the glass and the finished drink using a smoke gun. It’s a cool trick but he said he had to take the drink off the menu because it was too time consuming when they were busy. I’ll have to try your technique at home since I have everything but the wood.

    • It’s a lot of fun, and it works with many different cocktails. The other nice thing about being able to do it at home is that it doesn’t come with the price tag that a drink like that usually carries in bars. Is that particular interview up on your blog? I’d be interested to read it.

  2. Wow, wow, wow. That’s all I’ve got–these images are amazing! And I didn’t realize this was so easy to do at home. I just gotta get a blowtorch.

    • Thanks so much for the applause! And yes, you must go to the hardware store right now. The blowtorch is absolutely one of our favorite tools in the kitchen.

    • Thanks so much Alanna! We have pretty much tried smoking every damn cocktail we can think of since that discovery. It will definitely be making repeat appearances on the site. I would love to hear what you dream up with it!

  3. This recipe looks amazing, and so does your write-up! One thing I’ve been trying to figure out, though – what is that awesome glass that you use? I can’t find them anywhere!

    • Thanks Will! We found those glasses at Pier 1 several years ago, and it’s actually funny that you ask about them because Mark broke one recently and we have been hunting all over for a replacement because apparently they have been discontinued. So – if you happen to spot some, let us know!

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