A golf-club bartender shares the secret to smoking cocktails — and why you should do it

Cocktail cocktail with big cubes of ice on a dark background.

Smoking a cocktail like an Old Fashioned opens up a whole new world of flavor.

Getty Images

Welcome to Clubhouse Eats, where we celebrate the game’s most delectable food and drink. Hope you brought your appetite.


A visit to Streamsong Resort, which this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary, not only introduces discerning travelers to a world of classic golf course architecture with a modern spin, it can also pair those rounds with classic cocktails embellished with a modern approach. In the words of Courtney Depianta, a beverage coordinator at the resort (and frequent bartender at Streamsong’s Leaf Lounge), “Bartending is the art of turning ordinary ingredients into extraordinary sips, and all artists start somewhere.”

An ideal place to start is with the Old Fashioned. We’ve already shared with you our guide to crafting amazing Old Fashioneds, and at Streamsong, there are usually at least a  few options on the menu — including a smoked variant that’s served at the hotel’s recently reopened (and reimagined) Rooftop 360 bar. We sought Depianta’s advice on the topic, including how to effectively — and easily — smoke these cocktails at home.

You’ll want to pay attention. We can attest that the results are most definitely worth it.

Start with the Specs

When Depianta mixes an Old Fashioned, she always starts with two ounces of the base spirit, then adds half an ounce of a sweetener and finishes with two to three dashes of bitters. The specific measures of sweetener and bitters are important, as Depianta explains that they’ll “either lift, bind, or balance the flavors of the spirit.” Similarly, the volume of the base spirit is also important to the success of the finished cocktail, since at its core, an Old Fashioned is defined by the characteristic flavors of that alcohol. “Using these ratios,” she says, “the cocktail is complex but representative of the spirit.”

The Art of Experimentation

There have been times when Streamsong has emphasized non-traditional Old Fashioneds. A while ago, for example, the rooftop bar featured a menu of Old Fashioneds that included rum, Cognac, Japanese whiskey, and other spirits. “Some people think that an Old Fashioned is just bourbon and sugar and bitters,” Depianta says, “but it can be any variety of spirit, any variety of sweetener, and any variety of bitters.”

an old fashioned drink
A golfer’s guide to making amazing old fashioneds
By: Shaun Tolson

If you’re willing to experiment, a good rule of thumb is to start by simply swapping out the base spirit. If, for example, traditional bourbon Old Fashioneds are your jam but you’re curious about what Cognac can do, don’t change anything about your sweetener or bitters and just replace the bourbon with Cognac. That will provide some clarity as to how Cognac alone changes the drink. From there you can take greater liberties to try new sweeteners and/or bitters along with it.

Just make sure you taste all components of your drink individually first. That’s one of Depianta’s most important pieces of advice. That, and adhering to the idea that flavors that seem complementary are the best combinations to try first. “If it doesn’t sound good,” she acknowledges, “it probably won’t be good.”

Smoke ‘Em If You Can

The flagship Old Fashioned served at Rooftop 360 features the resort’s private barrel selection of Maker’s Mark bourbon, a syrup crafted from the property’s proprietary honey, and it’s built in a smoked glass. Taking nothing away from the whiskey or the honey syrup, but the drink shines best for that deliberate aspect of smoke. And the smoke plays well with most whiskey cocktails for reasons that are rather straightforward, says Depianta.

“When we think about the journey that a whiskey has to go through, interacting with a charred barrel, I think that is why whiskey drinks — and a bourbon Old Fashioned in particular — is such a popular drink to be smoked,” she says. “The smoke just pairs very well with it.”

More specifically, the technique of how the cocktail is smoked is also an important distinction. “Smoking the glass brings a little more smokiness to the cocktail just because when you pour the cocktail in, it’s touching all the surface of the glass,” she says. “You’re getting all of that flavor slowly mixed in. You can taste that throughout your cocktail.”

Experimenting with smoke at home is easier than you think. We tested a cocktail smoking kit produced by Aged & Charred, and found that it was not only easy to impart a pleasing waft of smoke onto — and into — our bourbon Old Fashioned, but how we did it created noticeably different outcomes. Smoking the glass and large ice cube prior to pouring the cocktail produced a rocks glass that offered up a discernible aroma of smoke throughout, though the smokiness didn’t alter the cocktail’s flavor much. Conversely, smoking the finished cocktail in the glass imparted a faint smokiness to the liquid but mitigated much of the lingering aroma. The best scenario — or at least the smokiest — is to combine the two, effectively smoking the cocktail twice.

Whichever outcome sounds more appealing, just know that the act of smoking the cocktail with the kit is not only approachable but remarkably simple. It also might be the thing that you discover your Old Fashioneds have been missing. “Paired with the right spirit,” Depianta says, “that little bit of extra flavor goes a long way.”

generic profile image

Golf.com Contributor