Smoked Sugar Cocktail with Ginger and Lemon

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 Today Food, I’ve rounded up a bunch of ways to bring a smoky flavor to classic cocktails.

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 to your Friday night margarita, there’s one ingredient that I was particularly jazzed to try out and play around with.

smoked sugar cocktail with ginger and lemon

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 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 smoked sugar cocktail, as is my wont. Being sugar, it lasts pretty much forever as long as you keep it sealed away from ants and moisture!

smoked sugar cocktail with ginger and lemon

The smoked sugar 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.

And this is a low-ABV cocktail that has tons of flavor without walloping you over the head with high-proof liquors. It’s more of a lightly spiked lemonade than a powerful lemondrop.

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.)

smoked sugar cocktail with ginger and lemon

Smoked Sugar Cocktail with Ginger and Lemon

Yield: 2 drinks
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Bourbon smoked sugar is the subtle but crucial ingredient in this smoked sugar cocktail, mixed with ginger liqueur, mint, and lemon.


  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 2 tablespoons smoked sugar, divided
  • 1 large handful mint
  • 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) ginger liqueur
  • 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Squeeze a wedge of lemon around the rims of 2 cocktail glasses.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon smoked sugar on a plate, then roll the glass rims in the sugar to coat.
  3. Muddle the remaining smoked sugar and mint in a cocktail shaker, then add the ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and water.
  4. Stir to dissolve the sugar in the liquid, then add a handful of ice cubes.
  5. Close the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  6. Strain the cocktail, dividing it evenly between the two glasses.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 81Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 0g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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  1. 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.

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