It’s early afternoon, and smoke is billowing inside Brick & Bourbon in Maple Grove.
A delicate glass dome on a stand is filling with smoke from the embers of smoldering oak, pumped in through a tube connected to a smoke gun. When the lid is removed, thick curlicues escape in slow motion over the bar, revealing on the stand a Maple Old Fashioned that was shrouded in white a moment ago. From the bourbon to the mini-Belgian waffle for garnish, the cocktail is now freshly smoked.
Soon, there are plumes mushrooming up over one table after another. The restaurant’s barrel-wood-lined walls start to evoke a log cabin with the fireplace crackling, your hair smelling like you’ve slept in a state park.
’Tis the season for smoked cocktails.
As cocktail menus become ever more elaborate in the Twin Cities, smoke is increasingly an ingredient as indispensable as simple syrup, a bit of flair as whimsical as a paper umbrella. Some bartenders use it for its flavor, others for the theatrics of swirling smoke. Whatever their reason, there is no better time than autumn for a drink perfumed by campfire, with garnishes sometimes set ablaze and left with a hint of the hearth.
“The flavor of smoke just gives off a different taste profile of a drink that you can’t get from mixing with juices or syrups,” said Gary Sivyer, who as co-owner of Brick & Bourbon in Maple Grove and Stillwater devised the tube-dome setup that makes for the Smoking Gun cocktail. “It gives a different texture to the drink and picks up flavor profiles hidden in the bourbon itself.”
The Smoking Gun at Brick & Bourbon (7887 Elm Creek Blvd N., Maple Grove, 763-208-9477, brickandbourbon.com) comes two ways: the Old Fashioned, made with single-barrel bourbon, maple syrup and orange bitters and topped with the waffle, an orange peel and a slice of cherrywood-smoked bacon (of course); and a simple Campari-gin Negroni. The smoke fits right in the breakfasty Old Fashioned, while the Negroni becomes something else, with the bitterness of the Campari mellowed by the smoke.
“Smoke works well to balance out the drinks,” Sivyer said.
It is a flavor, however, that is not for everyone.
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