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Five Smoking Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Cocktails

The air around Guy Fawks night is filled with the tantalising scents of bonfire and spent fireworks, but before you let your creativity unleash on some smoke inspired cocktails, read these mistakes and how to fix them first. 

1. The flavour of your cocktail is overpowered, and you don’t understand why?

The Fix: Syringol and guaiacol are produced when a plant polymer present in wood, called lignin, is burned. Water, fat and proteins absorb these chemicals and take on the flavour compounds. Whereas syringol is the main chemical responsible for the smoky aroma, guaiacol contributes to taste. Essential oils from celery seeds, tobacco leaves, orange leaves, and lemon peels also contain guaiacol. Therefore, if you are already using one or more of these ingredients in your drink, if you add a smoke effect in your presentation, you will throw off the balance of the flavour of your cocktails for your guests.

2.   You want to borrow smokey flavours from BBQ cooking.

The Fix: When you cook red meat over smokey wood chips, the iron molecules absorb smoke quickly, then the proteins and sugars on the outer layer, fuse and explode to create a molten, protective crust, locking in that unctuous smokey flavour. Therefore, it’s doubtful you will ever get that intense caramelised smokey meat flavour in a liquid. However, you can try smoking tomatoes for a Bloody Mary, smoking salt for a Margarita or fat washing your Bourbon with smoked Brisket, then boost the intensity with a blast of smokey Flavour Blaster aromatic to garnish.

 3. You want a smoke-filled bubble on a hot drink. 

The Fix: There is a tiny layer of stationary air that usually surrounds objects. This thin pocket of air can be trapped into a bubble if it is the same or a lower temperature than the smoke you are introducing into the bubble. This is because particles move from warm to cool surfaces in a process known as thermophoresis. The warm smoke is attracted to the cold cocktail like a magnet. In reverse, not only is the surface of the cocktail too hot to draw the smoke, but the usually stationary air around it is emanating towards the cooler air in the room, making it impossible to create the tension necessary for a bubble to form. Yet, this is the season for hot drinks so try using a cloche or glass with a lid to keep smoke trapped with a physical barrier. 

4.  Your cocktail is flammable!

Some spirits have a fire starting ABV. For example, British Navy rums and gins are traditionally made ‘overproof’. If the liquid spilt on the gun powder kegs in storage, they could still ignite the ammunition if they were under attack.

The Fix: Smoke is made in the process of combustion, which involves the thermal conversion of fuel with oxygen, creating carbon dioxide and water vapour. This combustion is a source of heat, which could also set your ingredients alight. The Flavour Blaster solves this problem by containing electrical heat within the gun barrel, which heats water vapour that shoots from the nozzle. This is much cooler than the smoke from a traditional smoke gun and safer to serve with overproof spirits.

5. You’re Getting Frustrated with a traditional wood chip smoking gun.

Not all smoke tastes good, and adding more smoke is not always better. Too much smoke will make your cocktail taste bitter. Hemicellulose, lignin, and cellulose in wood break down at low temperatures to create those complex smoky aromas but burn them at too high temperatures, and they break down even further, producing unpleasant, acrid tasting compounds. Airflow and humidity will affect the temperature of the burn.

In a barroom, these two variables can vary considerably and can leave your drinks tasting inconsistent. Try starting with less smoke and add more as you become more skilled with the gadget you’re using. Or, opt for a Flavour Blaster gun. The Smoke Aromatic uses smoke essence carried in water vapour. Because there’s no pyrolysis — when heat breaks down chemical bonds releasing energy, i.e. fire — you will get a consistent smoky aroma that doesn’t change if the variables in the room or the skill of your servers change. 


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