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Cheers! There's more than one way to smoke a cocktail

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
This Grilled Pineapple Margarita gets its smokiness from three different sources.

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings recently showed how to make a smoked cocktail by putting the cocktail under a bowl. Then she lit a cinnamon stick.

She’s been looking into other ways to get smoky tastes into cocktails for a class she teaches.

“I’ve been trying a lot of different techniques and I’m going to put a whole bunch of them into this one cocktail,” she said.

The cocktail is a Grilled Pineapple Margarita, but bringing smoke to the glass won’t mean lighting cinnamon sticks this time.

She started with a smoked salt rim.

“I don’t have to do any work here to add smoke to my drink. I can take something that’s already smoky,” she explained.

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Wetting only the outside of the rim with a lime means this drink is not going to be too salty on the inside.

When a drink calls for a salted rim or a sugared rim, Tammy is a big believer in only putting it on the outside rim of the glass.

“So that the drink doesn’t get overly salty as you drink it,” she said.

It also gives you a chance to see what the drink is like with and without the salt after you’ve taken that first sip.

Mezcal is the next introduction of smoke to the drink.

“Mezcal is made from roasted agave,” which she said is roasted in a pit oven.

Finally, she grilled some pineapple spears, getting them nice and caramelized on all sides. Then she used that to make a syrup (recipe below).

This drink also uses a tequila, Cabresto, that’s made by a Detroit family. Of course, tequila is only made in Mexico, but it’s got a really strong Michigan connection. We visited them a few years ago and you can get that story here.

The drink is definitely smoky, but in a complex way because there are those three different methods to incorporate smokiness into the margarita.

“And there’s a little bit of smoke coming from lots of different directions, but it’s not overwhelming,” Tammy said.

Grilled Pineapple Margarita

1 1/2 oz reposado tequila
1/2 oz mezcal
1 oz grilled pineapple syrup (see below)
3/4 oz lime juice
Rim: smoked salt
Garnish: grilled pineapple chunk (optional)

Rim rocks glass with smoked salt. Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into prepared glass.

Grilled Pineapple Syrup

1 spear or slice of pineapple (about 1/8 of a pineapple)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Using a BBQ grill or grill pan heated to very hot, grill pineapple spear or slice until it is well grilled. It’s okay if it’s beginning to blacken a bit. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then cut into chunks. In a saucepan, heat sugar and water just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Combine warm simple syrup and pineapple chunks in a jar and let steep in the refrigerator for 4-24 hours. Strain syrup, pressing pineapple chunks lightly to extract syrup. Store refrigerated.

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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