Go to New York City’s best bars and you’ll see bartenders torching orange peels to finish an Old Fashioned and infusing whiskey with a smoke gun. It was a trend that did not go unnoticed by the folks at Traeger Grills, a company known for its high-end wood pellet smokers.
“People were making cocktails with smoked ice cubes or putting a cocktail in smoky box,” says Denny Bruce, the brand’s executive vice president of global sales and marketing. “We realized that using a real smoker could take this trend to the next level. So we decided to experiment with smoked and grilled cocktails, using surprising ingredients, and to publish a book of recipes that push the envelope without being so complicated to make that you’ll never try them.”
Traeger contracted with Casey Metzger of Utah’s Top Shelf Bartending and asked the 20-year craft cocktail veteran to determine which unconventional ingredients could complement spirits and marry flavors. Together, Bruce and Metzger hit the farmer’s market, hypothesizing about smoked grapefruit, baked orange peels, and grilled pistachios. Then they fired up a grill and tested each idea.
While a good cocktail has many components, the great ones all have one thing in common, says Metzger: They entice before the first sip. “When you grab a cocktail with grilled citrus, you see it and you smell it. The best cocktails stimulate your senses, so we wanted our cocktails to be beautiful and fragrant.”
The result of all that experimentation is Crafted: Traegered Cocktails ($19.99 print, $9.99 ebook), a recipe book with 32 new takes on classic drinks and detailed instructions on how to make everything from smoked syrups to infused spirits. The book is divided into reimagined classics like the Negroni, delicious mocktails, and their “pro series,” a collection that requires varsity-level prep. Everything requires some smoke.
“We hope it will inspire readers to experiment on their own,” says Metzger. “If you want to make a Bloody Mary and stick a lobster tail in your drink, you can. That idea—pushing the limits of what you’ve seen and tasted before—that’s what this book is about.”
Here are a few recipes to get you inspired.
1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce smoked honey syrup
Smoked Honey Syrup
Load smoker with cherry or apple hardwood and bring to 275 degrees. In a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water. Place on grill for 20 minutes or until blended. Cool and strain into a storage vessel.
Lemon Wheel Garnish
Load smoker with cherry or apple hardwood and bring to 375 degrees. Slice lemon into wheels and coat both sides with brown sugar. Grill for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until the shaker is cold and the ingredients are fully combined. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a grilled lemon wheel.
1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
1 rosemary sprig
Baked Orange Peel
Load smoker with cherry or apple hardwood and bring to 325 degrees. Peel orange into a single long strip. Place peel on grill for seven to ten minutes or until ends are slightly brown. Cut into eight pieces.
In a mixing glass, combine gin, vermouth, Campari, and ice. Stir until the glass is cold and the ingredients are fully combined. Strain into a coupe glass. Use a match to burn rosemary sprig. Drop sprig and baked orange peel into the glass as a garnish.
2 ounces white rum
1/2 ounce smoked agave syrup
2 dashes apricot vanilla bitters
Smoked Agave Syrup
Load smoker with cherry or apple hardwood and bring to 225 degrees. Add 1/2 cup agave syrup and 1/2 cup water to a small saucepan; stir until combined. Cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Cool and strain into a storage vessel.
Grilled Pear Garnish
Bring smoker to 275 degrees. Slice pears and grill each side for 20 minutes. Reduce heat and let pears smoke for ten minutes.
Place smoked agave syrup and two grilled pear slices in a rocks glass. Lightly muddle the pear. Add rum, bitters, and ice, and stir until the glass is cold and the ingredients are fully combined.
1 1/2 ounces vodka
4 ounces Bloody Mary mix
4 ounces tomato juice
1 pound bacon
1/2 cup warm maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 lemon, sliced
1 bunch asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
1 bunch celery, trimmed
Bring smoker to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange bacon in a single layer on paper. Brush both sides of each bacon strip with warmed maple syrup and sprinkle with brown sugar. Cook for 30 minutes or until brown and crispy. While the bacon cooks, place asparagus spears, shrimp, and lemon slices directly on the grill. Cook until the asparagus is tender, the lemon has grill marks, and the shrimp is cooked.
In a mixing glass, combine vodka, Bloody Mary mix, tomato juice, and ice. Strain into a Mason jar with ice. Add your choice of garnish.