How to Smoke a Glass for Old Fashioned

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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There’s just something that really elevates the experience of drinking an Old Fashioned when it’s coming out of smoked glass. Whether you’re trying to wow dinner party guests or trying to up the cool factor of the Old Fashioneds you serve at your bar, it’s actually pretty easy to create the smoke effect. 

Keep reading to learn exactly how to smoke a glass for an Old Fashioned, including the step-by-step process and our best tips for pulling this off. 

How Do You Smoke Glass?

When it comes to smoking a glass to make an Old Fashioned (or any other delightful cocktail that you find yourself concocting) there are actually a few different ways to go about it. 

Depending on your comfort level with setting things on fire and what you have handy, any of these methods will give you that rich, smoky taste to accentuate the flavours of your Old Fashioned. 

The two most popular ways to smoke glass for a cocktail involve using wood chips or something else you can safely set fire to or using an actual cocktail smoker. We will go over how to use both of these methods to create your smoked Old Fashioned. 

Smoking Glass With Wood Chips

This method is usually referred to as “smoking the glass” because you will be setting fire to the wood, garnish, etc., then placing the glass over it so it can absorb all the smoke. Most whiskey connoisseurs and top bartenders like this method for the optimum smoky taste. 

Smoking a cocktail using wood chips example.

Here is a quick breakdown of how to do this for your smoked Old Fashioned: 

  1. Prepare your glass, cocktail ingredients, smoking ingredient(s), and heat-safe surface
  2. Place the smoking ingredient(s) on a heat-safe surface and set it on fire 
  3. Watch the flame level and once you see enough smoke, set your glass face down directly over the fire (this will put out the fire and start the smoking process at the same time)
  4. Let the smoke marinate in the glass while you mix your Old Fashioned
  5. Lift the glass and immediately pour the Old Fashioned and any ice, garnish etc., directly inside 
  6. Serve (or enjoy for yourself)

Smoking Glass With a Cocktail Smoker

Cocktail smokers are a fun little gadget that has burst on the scene thanks largely to the popularity of fancy, smoky cocktails in recent years. You can pick one up for anywhere from $30-$180, depending on the brand and quality you are looking for. 

Example of using a cocktail smoker

If you want to try get the smoker used in this video, it’s the SmokeTop from Middleton Mixology (Amazon link).

Don’t sweat if your bar has a cocktail smoker and it intimidates you. Here is a fool-proof way to master the cocktail smoker so you can start serving up delicious smoky Old Fashioneds ASAP:

  1. Prepare your glass, cocktail ingredients, cocktail smoker, and smoking ingredient(s)
  2. Mix and pour your cocktail directly into the glass 
  3. Set the cocktail smoker bowl on top of the cocktail glass and fill it with the smoking ingredient(s) of your choice
  4. Set the contents of the smoker bowl on fire and allow it to burn for several minutes to generate the proper amount of smoke
  5. Cover the smoker bowl with the included top to extinguish and concentrate the smoke 
  6. Remove the smoker bowl and serve the cocktail

SmokeTop Cocktail Smoker Kit - Old Fashioned Chimney Drink Smoker for Cocktails, Whiskey, & Bourbon - by Middleton Mixology (Cherry)

How Long Should You Smoke a Glass?

The whole process of smoking a glass should only take a few minutes. In most cases, you can expect the whole process to take 3-5 minutes from start to finish. 

Once you have set the smoking ingredients on fire, you will probably won’t need to let it burn for that long to achieve the flavour that you are looking for. 

This is especially true if you are smoking the glass directly (as opposed to with a cocktail smoker) because the smoky flavour is much more intense with this method. 

After making a few smoked Old Fashioneds, you will start to get an idea of the perfect amount of time to achieve the flavour you (and your customers) are looking for. Play around with different smoking ingredients, glass sizes and shapes, and lengths of time with the smoking process.

How Do You Smoke an Old Fashioned Without a Smoker?

The biggest misconception of smoked cocktails is that you need a fancy cocktail smoker to make something like a smoke Old Fashioned. 

Truthfully, all you need is a lighter, something to set on fire, and a heat-safe surface to make one. Our easy process above breaks this down into six easy steps that you can follow whether you are making cocktails at home or behind the bar.

Even many professional bartenders and cocktail connoisseurs prefer to make smoked Old Fashioneds the “old-fashioned way” without using a cocktail smoker. This has a lot to do with wanting a more concentrated smoky taste or just not wanting to invest in another bartending gadget. 

Can a Smoky Bourbon Give the Same Effect as Smoking a Glass for an Old Fashioned?

If you’ve never had (or made) a smoked Old Fashioned before, you might be wondering what the point of it is. Isn’t most bourbon by nature a “smoky” liquor? Why would you need to add more smoke? 

These are great questions and sometimes the answer is that you don’t need to add more smoke if you or your customers don’t want it, but it’s nice to have the option. 

Some bourbons that are aged in smoky wooden barrels may not need the added characteristic of more smoke to enhance the flavour. It’s entirely based on the preference of the person who will be enjoying the Old Fashioned, whether they want a straightforward cocktail or a true cocktail experience. 

Why Do People Smoke Glass for Old Fashioneds?

When you take the time to smoke a glass for your Old Fashioned, you really bring the cocktail into a full experience enveloping the five senses. 

It goes beyond just the hint of smokiness found in the bourbon itself. It takes the cocktail to the level of an experience and really makes it fun and immersive. 

When you set the drink down in front of your customer (or even yourself or a friend), you invite them to stop and just enjoy with all their senses. 

You see the remnants of the smoke, you can smell it before you even smell the cocktail, you can hear the crackling of the smoking ingredients, you can feel the warmth of the glass despite the cold cocktail inside, and of course, taste the delicious mingling of flavours as you sip it. 

Also, you might know that people sometimes mix up Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, if you want to know the differences, we’ve written an article about the differences between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan here.

Do You Have to Smoke an Old Fashioned?

It’s easy to get carried away in the craft cocktail world and assume that you have to pull out all the stops to make a good cocktail. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

If you don’t want to smoke an Old Fashioned, you absolutely don’t have to. You can make a fantastic, show-stopping Old Fashioned with or without smoking your glass. 

There are plenty of people who think that smoking an Old Fashioned is too much and prefer a traditional one in a regular, clean glass. It’s important to ask customers this when serving Old Fashioneds if your bar’s tendency is to always smoke a glass because it may be too much for some people.