The clocks have gone back, it’s darker, it’s damp and getting chillier every day. Yes, Autumn is here alright but with this time of year comes good old Bonfire Night. Thanks to Halloween it may not be as popular as it used to be (when was the last time you were asked “Penny for the Guy?”) but it still holds a place in our hearts.

We like to join in the choruses of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as the rockets light up the night sky. We like the crackle of the bonfire. We also like the smell of smoke that pervades the cold air. And what better to accompany this smoke and fireworks fun than a smoky cocktail?

Over the last few years we’ve seen and tasted some very good cocktails cleverly infused with real smoke but for now we’ll leave that to the mixologists. Instead, there are simpler ways to sneak a little smokiness into your drinks.

First up whisky, more specifically Islay single malt whiskies. With varying degrees of smokiness these can be a bit of an acquired taste. That said, if you do acquire the taste you won’t look back. Enjoyed straight they are beautiful and will certainly see off the evening’s chill. But if you want to temper the smokiness just a little and enjoy a rather delicious cocktail into the bargain we suggest a Smokey Sweet Manhattan.

Another way to get the smoke action going is mezcal. Something of a cousin of tequila this spirit can also take a little getting used to but is well worth the effort. And this one really does come into it’s own in a mixed drink. Our favourite? A Mezcal Margarita – just replace your tequila with mezcal.

Smokey Sweet Manhattan

50ml Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
25ml sweet vermouth
3 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
Maraschino cherry to garnish

Add the whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters to a mixing glass filled with chunky ice cubes and stir carefully for about 25 seconds. Pour into a chilled martini glass and drop in the cherry.

Mescal Margarita

50ml Mezcal
15ml Cointreau
15ml fresh lime juice

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and half fill with ice cubes. Shake really hard for about 15 seconds, then strain into a tumbler filled with big ice cubes.

The Cocktail Lovers say:

If you just want a hint of smoke without either the whisky or mezcal taking centre stage here’s a simple way to introduce it into your favourite cocktails. Just rinse about 10ml of either the whisky or mezcal around the inside of your chilled glass to completely coat it, then pour in the cocktail of choice. You’ll get a nice hit of smoke on the nose but with only a hint in the taste. Try the Islay with darker drinks such as a rum Old-Fashioned or the mezcal in something lighter like a Daiquiri.

This week we’re loving:

The gin revival continues to go from strength to strength and the Juniper Journey is just the thing to find out (and taste) more. Sample juniper drinks past, present and future with world class bartender Tristan Stephenson at The Worship Street Whistling Shop courtesy of Tanqueray Gin.

The Worship Street Whistling Shop, 63 Worship Street, London, EC2A 2DU.

As featured on The Independent Dish of the Day blog 1/11/2013

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