July 15, 2024


Food Moments

The Best Cocktail Smokers of 2022

8 min read
The Best Cocktail Smokers of 2022

Perhaps you went to a craft cocktail bar in the mid-aughts and watched as a mixologist unveiled a cocktail enveloped in a plume of smoke. It was a great show, but does a cocktail smoker fit into your home drink routine?

Cocktail smokers (also known as smoking guns) are small units that add hints of smoke to your drink. In essence, you place wood chips into the device, light it, and the unit will coax smoke through a tube and into a glass or vessel. That said, not all cocktail smokers are totally alike. Some are easy to use and smoke your drink as promised, while others are for the serious home mixologist, with add-ons like smoke bubbles. Some require you to place the cocktail in a bag or cloche, while others smoke via a small lid that sits over a glass.

To find the best ones, we tested six popular cocktail smokers. We looked for models that were easy to use—with accessible instructions and practical operations—and performed well. We also considered design nuances, including the power source, the wood chips included, and any tools needed for maintenance and upkeep.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Cocktail Smoker: PolyScience Breville Gun Pro Smoke Infuser

Breville PolyScience The Smoking Gun Pro

An adjustable fan speed and a sleek exterior earned Breville’s cocktail smoker top billing. The unit provided a steady amount of smoke that integrated well into spirits and cocktails. It came with small vials of hickory and applewood chips, making it a nice starter kit.

The Best Cocktail Smoker for Cocktail Nerds: Homia Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser Birner PRO

Homia Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser Extended Kit

For the home mixologist looking to take smoking further, this unit offers a wide range of options. You can infuse ice, make smoke bubbles and pop them in a cocktail, or smoke directly in the included smoking ball with this set.

The Tests

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

  • Smoked Spirit Test: We smoked tequila and whiskey and examined how integrated the smoke was, and whether it was cloying or fake tasting. We also considered how much the smoke picked up on the glass, if it faded, and how long it took for the smoke to impart into the drink.
  • Smoked Cocktail Test: We smoked an Old Fashioned, noting how long it took to integrate into the drink, and how the smoke tasted in the final cocktail. 
  • Wood Chip Test: We tested each smoker with high-quality wood chips to ensure the smoker’s results weren’t dictated by the quality of wood included with each kit.
  • Usability Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy the smoker was to set up and use.
  • Cleaning Tests: After each test, we cleaned the smokers per manufacturers’ instructions, noting if it was easy or difficult to do so.

What We Learned

Fuel Source Was Important

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

Smokers can be powered a number of ways. Some have a charger, making it easy; after it’s fully powered, smoke away. And when you’re done, place it back in the holding case. Other models are battery-powered. Both of these styles require you to load the wood chips and spark them with a match or handheld lighter. Alternatively, there are propane-powered units, though these tend to be most costly in terms of continuous use and can be unsafe if you’re not familiar with using propane. Our two favorites were both battery-powered.

Smoke Application Made All the Difference

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

There are a number of different ways smoking guns can impart smoke into drinks. Some units just include the smoking gun, allowing you to add the hose of the gun directly to a cocktail glass or vessel of choice. Some models, like the Crafthouse by Fortessa Glass Smoking Cloche with Smoke Infusing Gun, come with show-worthy glass cloches (which, to be honest, are a nuisance to store at home). Others, including the MITBAK Cocktail Smoker with Dome Lid and Woodchips and Homia Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser Birner PRO, include covers that allow one to smoke directly into a rocks glass. One unit even came with custom orb glasses to allow for direct infusion.

For most at-home bartenders, easy-to-use, minimal footprint smokers that easily snake into glasses or vessels are the right choice.

Extras Can Be Important 

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

There are a number of different applications for smokers, and many units are kitted out accordingly. The basic unit will include the smoking gun and hose, and perhaps a few wood chip options for getting started. More complex units (read: often pricier) include cleaning materials for the hoses, extra grates for the burning compartment, and hose extensions for smaller vessels. And then some will include items like smoker-specific glasses, large cloches with bases specifically designed for smoke infusions, and a wider variety of woods to work with. (For example, applewood works well with rye whiskey, while pear wood will play well with white spirits.) The main takeaway here is to consider what level of smoke commitment you’re looking for. To ensure all extras are actually useful and not just more stuff to store, we considered not only the quality of the smoker, but of the entire package offered.

Consistency and Quality of the Smoke

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

While all of the smokers infused the flavor of smoke into a cocktail, the quality varied quite widely. Some worked fast and furious, billowing smoke into the glass and overwhelming the drink. Others integrated smoke slowly and beautifully. (That said, finagling a smoking gun can require some practice.)

To track the quality of the smoke infusion, we tested the smokers in two different applications: with spirits neat and with an Old Fashioned. We were surprised at how varied the quality of the smoked neat spirit was. While one smoker integrated the smoke flavors beautifully (incredible length and layered depth), another smoker was very one-note. In the case of the latter, the smoke tasted almost like an added flavor, rather than the result of a dedicated gadget.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Cocktail Smoker

Serious Eats / Will Dickey / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The best cocktail smokers offer consistent, high-quality smoke with minimal effort (ideally, there’s no large learning curve).  They also produce subtle, nuanced smokiness that isn’t overly cloying or strong.

The Best Cocktail Smoker: PolyScience Breville Gun Pro Smoke Infuser

Breville PolyScience The Smoking Gun Pro

What we liked: The Breville had adjustable fan speed, a sleek exterior, and provided a steady amount of smoke that integrated well into spirits and cocktails. It had a wide base we found easy to hold onto while in use, but the entire unit was still very light. Smoke-wise, it yielded great results—producing beautiful, billowy smoke. Thanks to an adjustable dial on the back of the unit, you can customize the amount of smoke piped into your drink (or food). Even on the highest setting, we found the smoke quite subtle and nuanced; it didn’t pack a punch of unpleasant smoke like other units did.

What we didn’t like: While the cocktail smoker is extremely versatile (you could even smoke food with it) there are no additional accouterments to help smoke your cocktails—just wood chips and a tube. And while we think this is fine for most at-home users, some may want additional cloches or smoking gear.

Price at time of publish: $150.

Key Specs

  • Fuel Source: Flame (wood burning)
  • Power Source: Batteries 
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Tube Length: 20 inches
  • Accessories: N/A

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

The Best Cocktail Smoker for Cocktail Nerds: Homia Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser Birner PRO

Homia Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser Extended Kit

What we liked: This was a versatile unit that offered lots of options; smoking ice, making smoke bubbles and popping them in a cocktail; or making modernist cocktails smoked directly in bubble-shaped glasses. Plus, it was a fairly affordable option with plenty of gizmos to play with. An added holder allows you to let the smoking gun sit while working so you have both hands free.

What we didn’t like: The included dome is a great touch, as is the lid for smoking cocktails in a glass. It also included bubble glasses you can smoke directly into. That all said, it’s quite the kit. And if you don’t want to get super into cocktail smoking, it may be more than you need (or want to store).

Price at time of publish: $100.

Key Specs

  • Fuel source: Flame (wood burning)
  • Power Source: Batteries 
  • Weight: 4.73 pounds
  • Tube Length: 18 inches
  • Accessories: Gun stand, flexible hose, disk lid, dome lid, two glass cocktail balls, wood chips, bubble nozzle, four AA batteries, three pieces of extra mesh, tweezers, cleaning brush, screw driver

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

The Competition

  • Breville Smoking Gun Food Smoker: Don’t get us wrong, this was a great smoker and an excellent option for beginners, as it was easy to use. But the collaborative unit with Polyscience is a slight step up, offering better features and performance.
  • Gramercy Kitchen Cocktail Smoker: This was easy to use, small to store, and provided consistent smoke. That said, the quality of its wood chips was poor—the neat spirit we made was almost undrinkable—and the smoke infusion process was clunky.
  • Crafthouse by Fortessa Glass Smoking Cloche with Smoke Infusing Gun: This smoking gun didn’t perform well, thanks to relatively low motor pressure. Additionally, the cloche was too large to store easily.
  • MITBAK Cocktail Smoker with Dome Lid and Wood Chips: The unit was by far the most straightforward to use. The instructions were clearly laid out and you can get set up to smoke in a few short minutes. But the dome was too short: you couldn’t fit much more than a rocks glass in there. Martini glasses? Highballs? Good luck! We also noticed the wood chips were a bit stale, leaving unappetizing smoke flavors in the drink. 


Why would you use a smoker for a cocktail? 

A cocktail smoker imparts a torched quality to drinks and neat spirits, adding a unique aroma and flavor that can be appealing in many cocktails, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

How long do you need to smoke a spirit or cocktail for? 

It will vary from smoker to smoker, but typically between one to four minutes is sufficient. One minute will impart just a kiss of smoke, while longer will allow the smoke to fully flavor the drink.

Can you use a cocktail smoker for something else?

Absolutely! You can use a cocktail smoker to make smoked fish, vegetables, and even ice cream.

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