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01.08.11 by  

The Smoke-Filled Cocktail: One Big Mouthful of WTF.

Meet the latest mixology trend: infusing spirits with a cozy, campfire taste and scent. At first, a mindblow—now we’re hooked. Let Junior Merino’s tricks transform your happy hour into the first space in your hood to serve a scorch in every sip.

When we first talked to mixologist Junior Merino, we got insight into why he’s known as The Liquid Chef. Any guy who can make ashtray aftermath taste appealing must be on to something (no one’s ever exclaimed, “gee, the smoke from your cigarette smells divine”). Junior’s spin on infusing that bonfire-and-BBQ smoky essence into your bar-side sipper proves that inspiration can come from anywhere. For him, it comes from bouncing around the globe searching for the latest ingredients, flavor and trends to take back to the lab. Here’s how he is capturing the smoke fad and infusing it into his creations.

Junior Merino's Coquito Cocktail

The Coquito lets you ease into the trend by calling for a smoke-infused brand of rum.

smokiness can be found naturally in some tequilas, what else?

Junior Merino: Mostly mezcals, scotches and aged spirits.

and what about liquid smoke?

I do use liquid smoke once in while to achieve a smoky flavor in a couple of drops. You can also use it in an atomizer to spray on top of cocktails or the glass, as a rinse, or mixed with high-proof spirits then burn just to keep the scent.

what are the other ways of infusing smoke into cocktails?

I use the portable smoker to burn different kinds of woods, herbs, spices, flower or blends that I create. One way to do it is to put the cocktail upside down and trap the smoke in it, then release once the drink is ready to be served. Another way is to put the spirit in a water bottle, put the smoke in the bottle, seal it and shake for a couple of minutes to blend the smoke and the spirit. I also make a smoke air where I trap the smoke in small air bubbles, then put it on top of a cocktail — this technique is a lot more elaborate.

so what are the tools of the smoke trade?

The PolyScience Smoking Gun, Smoky Express, liquid smoke and mesquite oils, among others.

how do you approach pairing flavors with smoke?

I first taste the spirit, then decide what kind of smoke goes better with that specific brand or category. For the most part, those that pair well with smoke are certain types of tequila, mezcal, and whisky.

what should we be sipping?

Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef

Junior Merino makes sipping smoke a delectable habit.

I’ve come up with a lot of smoke-infused cocktails through out the years: an avocado-mezcal cocktail; the Cubico, which is a tobacco cocktail with grilled pineapple juice; a Pepper Whiskey, which is a black pepper cocktail with a smoked air; a chorizo-infused cocktail with some liquid smoke; the Coquito that uses a smoky rum with coconut milk, peanut liqueur and maple; and Heidi Merino has a great cocktail with kiwi, coriander and Pisco. I can keep going on and on.

Junior Merino’s Coquito Cocktail

We love the smoke-infused flavor of Chairman’s Reserve Rum in this inspiration from The Liquid Chef.

  • 1 1/2 ounces Chairman’s Reserve Rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces Castries Peanut Creme Liqueur
  • 1 ounce coconut milk
  • 1/2 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1/2 ounce maple syrup grade A
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Rim the glass with dehydrated coconut and maple sugar.
  2. Pour all the ingredients in a shaker, add ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass.