If you’re a serious bourbon drinker, make a Smoked Old Fashioned, ASAP. It’s a high proof, smoked bourbon cocktail with a blend of warmth and spicy bitters. A smoky twist on a timeless drink!
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Bourbon was practically destined for use in smoked cocktails. The fact that every bourbon barrel is charred on the inside links the flavor of bourbon to the char on the inside.
Some bourbons taste mildly smoky, or have a slightly smoky finish. In general, though, bourbons are never as smoky as an Islay Scotch whisky or a great mezcal.
What is a Smoked Old Fashioned?
I designed this recipe specifically to be the best smoked bourbon cocktail you will ever want to drink.
I keep the proof high, and I add a dash of intrigue with some smoky, spicy bitters from Hella Bitters company. It is a cocktail I return to again and again, and batch when I’m going to a party with some of my fellow bourbon lovers.
If you’ve been to this site before, you know that an Old Fashioned is one of my go-to cocktails. For me, a perfect Old Fashioned celebrates the whiskey inside it. It’s one of the very first cocktails developed, and it consists of whiskey, bitters, and sugar.
To elevate the flavors for an unforgettable mixed drink, this recipe takes a few turns from the classic.
Ingredients for My Smoked Old Fashioned Recipe
- 100 proof bourbon
This is a high proof drink. Strong bourbon cocktails build character.
If you’re a classic old fashioned drinker, you may not be interested in adding a lot of different things to your cocktail. Not to worry.
My recipe for a smoked old fashion includes the classic ingredients of citrus and sugar. The only tweak is to include a few dashes of smoky, somewhat spicy bitters. Specifically Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Bitters.
- Simple Syrup
You’ll enjoy the smoked old fashioned best if you make it with raw sugar, to create a 1:1 demerara simple solution.
For a little more information on how to make a simple syrup, read >> Everything About Simple Syrups.
But, if you don’t have that, just make a simple syrup with 1 cup water, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, and 1/2 cup white sugar for a very good approximation of it.
Heat up 1 cup of water in the microwave, add the sugars and stir until everything is dissolved. I then store it in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
And if you’d like to really play, create a simple syrup with sorghum your sweetener. It adds a lot more earthly, full-bodied notes to the cocktail than a straight white sugar simple syrup.
This is best made with a 2:1 ratio of sorghum to hot water. Again, once made, this should be stored in the fridge.
- Cinnamon Stick
To put the smoke in my smoked bourbon cocktail, I use a cinnamon stick. I set it on fire, then place the glass over the top, to put out the fire. This allows the glass to soak in the smoke while you are making your drink.
Best Bourbons for a Smoked Old Fashioned
So go to your bourbon cabinet and find a barrel-strength bourbon (or rye). I recommend Pikesville Rye or Wild Turkey Rare Breed. Both are bar staples for me because of their aggressive and complex flavor profiles and their easy availability here in Kentucky.
Because we’re adding both smoke and heat flavors to this smoked cocktail, make sure that the whiskey flavors still stand up to the addition of high-proof, smoked accents to the cocktail. To do that, look for bourbons and ryes over 100 proof – and ones that have a great bite and finish to them.
To find out more about smoking cocktails, read Easy Ways to Smoke Cocktails at Home.
Be sure to serve your smoky Old Fashioned over perfectly clear ice cubes, to keep it cold without over-diluting it. Learn How to Make Your Ice Shine in Cocktails.
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Smoked Old Fashioned – A Seriously Smoked Bourbon Cocktail
- 2 oz 110 to 115 proof bourbon – barrel strength preferred
- ½ oz demerara simple syrup
- 1 dash angostura bitters
- 2 dashes Hella smoked chili bitters
- Garnish: orange peel/smoked cinnamon stick
- Combine bourbon, simple and bitters in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir well to combine and strain into an old fashioned glass with a large cube of ice. Express an orange peel over the top of the cocktail and sip slowly. As the high proof bourbon melts the old fashioned changes character and evolves into a sweeter, more approachable drink. Or it could just be the alcohol.
This post, originally published in March 2020, was updated with additional information in February 2023.