Across the country, bartenders are using smoke to infuse their cocktails with more flavor. Smoke can be achieved by burning wood, of course, but lighting stalky herbs like thyme, rosemary and lavender brings additional flavor to drinks. Plus, it’s a fun parlor trick for cocktail parties.
The Butter & Smoke was created by Zachary Gross, the beverage director at Sen Sakana, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant in New York City. To make it, he utilizes thyme smoke alongside pumpkin-butter-infused bourbon, cranberry bitters and Gran Classico, a bitter aperitif made from aromatic herbs and roots, including wormwood, gentian, orange peel and rhubarb.
“This combination is perfect because the homemade pumpkin butter adds depth and richness to the bourbon, along with a touch of fall spice,” says Gross. “This whole combination is completed by smoking the cocktail with thyme, which is another essential fall flavor.
Go ahead and play with fire, and try making the Butter & Smoke for yourself. Creating the pumpkin-butter-infused bourbon is an extra step that must be completed ahead of time, but the result is worth it. You’ll be the proud new owner of a delicious whiskey, and you’ll have plenty of leftovers for experimenting with other seasonal drinks during fall and winter.
Light a thyme sprig using a kitchen torch, place it inside a rocks glass, and set the rocks glass upside down on a granite countertop or other fireproof surface.
Add the remaining ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into the prepared glass over a large ice cube, and swirl to incorporate the smoke into the liquid.
Garnish with a thyme sprig and cranberries.
*Pumpkin-butter-infused fat-washed bourbon: Add 2 15-oz cans of pumpkin purée, 2/3 cup coconut sugar or organic brown sugar, 1/4 cup Grade A maple syrup, 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt to a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat and stir to combine. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, let cool completely and transfer to a large glass container. (Keeps in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.) Spread the pumpkin butter out on a large pan with a high rim. Pour a 750 mL bottle of bourbon on top, cover and let it infuse for an hour. Place the pan in the freezer to allow the alcohol to separate. Strain out solids and put it in a container.