Smokey Bandit!

When I think if America I think of Cowboys. I know America is so much more than just cowboys, but the Cowboys are the poster boys of America. Maybe it is the cigaret commercials, maybe it is the hundreds of western movies or maybe it is just the iconic cowboy hat. As a kid a used to imagine the Cowboys not as the people who manage herds of cattle, but as people who were roaming the country looking for a saloon to get some whiskey and if possible get into some trouble, pick up a gunfight and even steal a kiss from the pretty lady. Yeah. To my childish eyes, that was what a cowboy was. A guy with tough looks, soul-piercing eyes, rough hands and the smell of smoke, gunpowder, and whiskey to follow him around. So this cocktail is a tribute to my childhood heroes.

To create a cocktail like that we need two basic elements a whiskey and the smoke. Whiskey is easy to get. America is home to some of the worlds finest whiskeys. I am not going to give an introduction to whiskey’s now. There hundreds (maybe thousands) of books about the American whiskey. I will try to give in a snapshot what is whiskey. A grain is boiled and the mash that is created is left to ferment. The fermentation is producing alcohol. This alcohol is separated through distillation. Although the distillation is also purifying the distillate, the starting grain is still noticeable in the final flavor. At this point, you can just drink it or age it in barrels. The aging process extracts flavor from the barrel wood (that is very carefully selected and fired or charred) and also concentrates the flavors since much of the alcohol and the water evaporates. What makes the difference between the various types of whiskeys are all these factors involved in the making of it: the original grain, the treatment of the distillate, the wood of the barrel, the treatment of the wood and the aging time. The quintessential American whiskey is Bourbon. It starts with corn, that is fermented to sour mash. The sour mash is distilled and the distillate is aged for a minimum of 3 years in fired but not smoked oak barrels that have never been used before. And it has to be made in America to be called Bourbon. The corn flavor is very distinct so many makers mix other grains like wheat or rye to mellow it down. In order however to be called Bourbon it should be at least 51% corn mash.

The smoke flavor, however, is a whole other issue. To get the right flavors we need to extract it from something that is already smokey. I am a big fan of the smoked flavors. One of my favorites is the smoked tea called Lapsang souchong. The legend has it that Chinese tea producers were in a hurry to finish off one last batch of tea drying. Being impatient they added more wood in the fire, cutting the oxygen and producing a lot of smoke. The smoke permeated the wet tea leaves infusing them with the aroma of the smoke. Although disappointing the vendors tried the tea and found it interesting. It has now become a very traditional tea variety and one of my personal favorites. I love the thick chard smell of the tea, especially when combined with the rich mouthfeel that the tannins give. This can be an excellent base for the smoke we need in this cocktail.

Now that we know the principles of the cocktail design let’s make it.

The ingredients are:

  • 2.5 oz of bourbon
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz vodka with smoke infusion
  • 1 sprig rosemary

For the infused vodka we need:

  • 3.3 oz of the vodka
  • 3 tbsp of tea leaves (smoked)
  • 1 tsp of peppercorns (smoked if at all possible)

Making the smoked infuse vodka is the first and major step. In a jar add the tea leaves.

Follow that with peppercorns.

Measure 100 ml of the vodka…

… and add them in the jar.

Lid up and store in a dark place for 2 days.

After two days it will look like this. Dark, musty and smokey. This is used just for the accent of the cocktail. The smoke flavor is predominant, the tannins give depth and body and the peppercorns give an extra spiciness and bite. This will make the cocktail really sand out!

Time to make the cocktail. Take your mixing glass.

Add the rosemary sprig.

And lightly muddle it, just to bruise it and get the aromas to be released.

Add ice.

Measure about 1/4 oz of our smoked infused vodka. Now, this is a homemade product and the flavor varies. Try it and adjust accordingly.

Fill the rest of the oz with the syrup. Add the mix in the shaker.

Now measure the bourbon.

And pour it in as well.

Cover the shaker with the lid and shake away.

Shake for 1 minute… As you can see the shaken really induced the chilling. And serve it in a cocktail glass… Yeah right… Any self-respecting cowboy would love to drink from a stemware. No! We have smoke and bourbon in there. We need to treat it the right way. On a regular old-fashioned glass.

With a nice big ice globe.

Add the ice globe in the glass.

Follow that with the cocktail.

And decorate with sprig of rosemary.

It is a great cocktail. With the flavor of bourbon complimented with the smokey undertones and the sweetness of the syrup. And just when you thought it was all over there is the surprising spiciness of the pepper. The cowboys of my childhood never drunk this, but I am damn sure they would like it. They would always ask for a smokey bandit.


Smokey Bandit!

  • Author: Georgios Pyrgiotakis
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 0 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 1 Cocktail
  • Category: Cocktails
  • Method: Shaking
  • Cuisine: American


A cocktail that delivers in a glass the feeling of a saloon at the end of the 1800s. Smokey, musty and full bodied.


For the cocktail

  • 2.5 fl.oz of bourbon
  • 1/2 fl.oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 fl.oz vodka with smoke infusion
  • 1 sprig rosemary

For the infusion:

  • 3 tbsp of lapsang tea leaves
  • 1 tsp of peppercorns (smoked, if at all possible)


For the infusion

  1. Start two days before the cocktail making with the infusion of the vodka. In a jar mix the tea leaves and the smoked peppercorns.
  2. Let it infuse for two days and strain.

The cocktail

  1. Add the rosemary in the shaker and lightly muddle it.
  2. Pack it to the top with ice.
  3. Add the infused vodka, the whiskey, and the syrup.
  4. Shake well.
  5. Serve in a highball with globe ice and the spring of rosemary.


  • If you don’t feel like making the infusion you can get by using a pity whiskey from the Scottish Aisles like Laphroaig or Lagavulin.
  • If you are adventurous you can use rosemary syrup.


  • Serving Size: 1 Cocktail
  • Calories: 110 kcal
  • Sugar: 11.2 g
  • Sodium: 38 mg
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.2 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0.3 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.1 g
  • Fiber: 0.1 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg


« »

Tags:  ,

Last modified: December 16, 2021 by Georgios Pyrgiotakis