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Smoke in the Bar

You might know, that I am not the best person for smoke and mirrors (no pun intended)... personally I like the simpler presentations. 

However I also understand the psychology when it comes to drinks. And using smoke, is pretty much the easiest wow factor if you do have the equipment.

From a flavor standpoint it can be also tempting, but often it is just unnecessary. If you are anyway mixing with Mezcal or Scotch (at least the smokier ones), smoking is just falsifying the aroma of the distillate. 
On the other side, I made the experience, that peat (of malts) usually don't work very well with other regular cocktail ingredients like citrus juices... however some smokes do much better in this department.

Equipment
Polyscience Smoking Gun
I bought myself (for the use in the hotel...) a Polyscience Smoking Gun. It is made out of plastic, and it is very obvious, that the plastic body is taken from a cheap volume produced consumer product (*cough* mini table vacuum cleaner) - this also includes are very out of date plastic on switch... just the specific smoking parts are proprietary, but also not made from good materials - it looks somewhat as DIY. The main issue, I do have with it: between $100 to more than €100 (depending where you are buying it) for a piece which would be otherwise not even $20! 
Working with it is a bit awkward as well. It is so light, that it is hard to work without tipping it over. The stand is also not the best solution there is. The smoke is ok, if you are using perfect sawdust, however it works much worse with spices, tea etc.
As I had previously the same smoking gun, in which batteries oxidized I took the batteries out after every weekly "brunch use", however eventually the springs in the battery compartment broke off... and the smoke anyway didn't really work well. It is really discerning, that a company like Polyscience don't up their game... disappointing!
Just don't buy it - it is not worth the trouble.
Aladin Supersmoker
When we received the order of the Aladin smoking gun, I was for a moment staggered. It is far bigger as you would expect - especially compared to the product of Polyscience. They use solid, anodized metal, everything is removable and washable (except of the motor compartment), it is a thing of beauty. The smoking chamber have two compartments, if you would have more heat sensitive material to smoke... cool. It stands solid. The engine seems quite strong - hence the smoke is thick and superior. It even has an attachment which fits on a jar, Boston shaker etc. It isn't cheap... but if you consider to use a handheld smoker
It is not, that it is flawless though: There is a battery holder which is loose in the main body... this is actually quite good, because you could even change it (this is a part, which you can for sure buy separate) - however it is just attached with the plain cables alone... a textile shrinking tube or similar would be a nice touch, to make sure, that the cables are "save". Further the on/off button is on the bottom of the appliance. Hence you have to pick it up to turn it off... in the meanwhile you are "smoking" your environment...

I am very happy with the Aladin smoker... but I still believe, that there is definitely room for improvement in this sector. Why can't there be a smoker with integrated "flame"? It is quite awkward, to use these types of smoker, at least, if you have only "two hands".

Technique
There are a lot of fallacies of bartenders using smoke guns. I often seen people shaking up a cocktail and then pouring it into a bottle or carafe with smoke.
And overall it is not completely wrong - only you are shaking to achieve a temperature of about -5°C  - then you are adding it to a room temperature carafe (and obviously "sway it around") - and you end up with a drink which is closer to 5-10°C. Yes - most bartenders are pouring the drink over ice - but this is increasing dilution (and it doesn't make a lot of sense).

"Shaking/Stirring with Smoke"
Hence if you are "mixing" with smoke, try to first smoke the ingredients (adding smoke to a bottle or carafe, adding the ingredients) and then shake or stir them up. The smoke might be slightly more delicate (you might want to swing the ingredients a bit longer in the carafe), but the cocktail has the right temperature.
"Beneath the Smoke"
Personally I think, the better way is, to serve the drink "beneath the smoke". We found some small jam jars, which are perfectly fitting on some glasses.
Basically you can do the cocktail as usual, put the jar upside down on top of the glass and "add smoke". It is a spectacle to remove the "lid" in front of the guest,,, which is really supporting the sales of the drink as well as the guest experience.
Smoked ingredients
As said, I don't really fancy using smoke to adulterate a spirit. However there are other things, which can be smoked and could lead to an interesting product.
Obviously smoking syrups, lemons, syrups etc, will have a very similar effect as smoking the cocktail. It might add less of smokiness... but it lacks the theater. However smoking garnishes, or sugar or salt for a rim could be also a surprising twist for a drink. Rims for obvious reasons... garnishes, can be a great experience.

"Sawdust"
The wood chips (or rather gratings) for the smoking guns are stupendous expensive - especially if you are comparing with traditional chips e.g. of Weber. Basically one small jar of wood for smoking guns (about 100, cost the same as a full bag (3 pounds) of normal wood chips.
I used my spice grinder, and while it worked quite well (trust me, it will take longer than normal spices or coffee), it seems to really put a lot of stress on my little whirly. Even though, an inexpensive spice grinder cost less, than a couple of bags of wood chips (the small ones) hence it is worth it.
But there is another work step: the wood chips would need to be sifted... at least for the Polyscience gun... I haven't tried yet the Aladin with the homemade sawdust.

Recipes:

I created two drinks, one very popular under our guests, one not yet implemented, but very much liked by our bosses:

Smoked Caravan Mule (Caravan restaurant)
50 ml     Absolut Orient Apple
120 ml   house-crafted ginger beer
              Fresh lime
              Apple wood smoke

Build the drink on ice cubes, stir and squeeze a couple of lime wedges in (don't overfill the glass - the smoke needs some space...).
Top with "lid" and add smoke under it. Present the drink to the guest, and remove in front of the guest the "lid".
The apple aromas of the Absolut is giving the Moscow Mule a quite playful character, however it is balanced with a good idea of smokiness!

Smoked & Spiked Honey Cider
40 ml     JD Tennessee Honey (yeah - I know... just don't judge me)
120 ml   Spiced apple juice (with vanilla, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice)
              Apple wood smoke

Heat up the spiced apple cider, pour into a copper mug add the whiskey liqueur and add smoke (under the lid).
The drink is quite sweet, but the smokiness again balances the character. Due to the warm liquid, the smoke is far more pronounced as in a cold drink.


Sources:
Here in the Middle East I found, that my friends at Muddle-Me are the most component, and simply the friendliest place you can buy this type of equipment. Be cautious (or just leave the credit card at home), when visiting their warehouse, because there is so much of amazing stuff, that your available balance is sinking faster, than a submarine in an emergency dive... but it is for sure worth it... and if you are there... just stack on my favorite tool the Soda Plus... just saying...




So here you have it... quite a lot about smoke and mirrors (yeah - now the pun is intended)! What are your experiences with smoking guns and smoked cocktails? Do you have any further questions?

Please let me know in the comments!











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