The Bar Cart: Smoky Mint Ginger-Ade

It’s been seven years since we bought this house, and I still don’t have a Big Green Egg in my backyard. (Granted, the backyard has been in a state of flux for a few of these years, but for the sake of complaint, let’s ignore that.) A woman who loves all things smoky—Scotch, bacon, Gouda… wait, who am I, Ron Swanson?—should not be denied the flavors she desires, even if others are the ones doing the actual smoking of ingredients. That’s why in a recent story for, I’ve rounded up a bunch of ways to bring a smoky flavor to classic cocktails.

smoky mint ginger-ade with bourbon smoked sugar, via
And while it’s cool to char orange peels like Marc Murphy does in his house Negroni at Landmarc and it’s easy to add a dash of mezcal and smoked salt (which you can make at home in a pinch!) to your Friday night margarita, there’s one ingredient that I was particularly jazzed to try out and play around with.

Bourbon barrel smoked sugar is the yin to smoked salt’s yang—the sweet counterpart to the savory smoked seasoning. I was introduced to this eye-opening ingredient through Chicago’s Rare Tea Cellar, which has an incredible pantry of exotic and captivating teas, spices, oils, and other add-ons that make me want to turn my kitchen into a laboratory.

Smoked sugar isn’t something I’d try to make at home, having no access to broken-down old bourbon barrels, but they’re the key to developing a smoky flavor that doesn’t overpower the pure sweetness of Demerara sugar. The vanilla notes of the bourbon that have soaked into the oak are gentle, unlike harsher smoked woods like hickory, and the result is a versatile garnish. Sprinkle it over oatmeal or crepes, stir it into coffee or tea, or use it in a cocktail, as is my wont. And, being sugar, it lasts pretty much forever as long as you keep it sealed away from ants and moisture!

smoky mint ginger-ade with bourbon smoked sugar, via
The cocktail below follows a familiar formula to those of you who are regular readers of my drinks column here on Good. Food. Stories. Certain combinations—ginger and smokiness, lemon and ginger, mint and lemon—are irresistible to me, and it’s hard to throw them together in one drink and not get a spectacular result. (If you’re feeling extra lemony, you can add a few drops of Rare Tea Cellar’s Pharaoh’s Ancient Lemon Syrup to the drink below for a sweeter, more citrusy punch.)

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  1. says

    I cannot believe that you just posted this! I was talking with my husband about a “new drink” I wanted to create. A mezcal margarita with a smoked sea salt rim and charred lime rind.
    Great minds, lady. I am also a sucker for anything smoked. Funny thing is, when I was 15, my house burned down and for years, I couldn’t stand the smell of anything barbecued or smoked. So glad I got over that.
    Happy Memorial Day, lady.