Can Smoked Ice Kick up Your Cocktail?

By Bob McCarthy

We’re a curious bunch. We’re constantly pondering this or that, usually out loud, typically at 4:00 on Friday. So nobody batted an eye when one of us proposed smoking Bourbon. Actually, it spawned another idea: Why mess with a decent bourbon when we could take a run-of-the-mill whisky, smoke it, and give it new life? Now that, everyone agreed, is one heckuva idea.

It was. It is. And we still might. However, a little research revealed that it would be easier to smoke ice and add it to whisky than to smoke the whisky. This angle also held more potential. Theoretically, smoked ice cubes could turn any drink—from a Roy Rogers to a Rob Roy—into a delightfully smoky cocktail.

Because we’re also an impulsive bunch, a plan was immediately put in motion. Ice was smoked that weekend and field tested at a party. While we aren’t the first to smoke ice, this was the first time we, or anyone we know, had tried it. That makes us trailblazers. Below, is the process we used to blaze that trail, and the results of the blazing.

How to Make Smoked Ice: The Process

  • Because pellet grills provide such clean smoke, we decided to use our Pellet-Q450 rather than a charcoal smoker. The hopper was loaded with hickory pellets and the temperature set to 225°F.
  • Since we weren’t quite sure how much smoke would be needed, we bumped up the smoke factor by adding an A-Maze Tube, also filled with hickory pellets. The last thing we wanted was to hear that our smoked ice tasted like ordinary ice.
  • We filled a 9x13” baking pan with ice cubes. You’d think the easiest way to make smoked ice would be to smoke water then freeze it. However, smoke is attracted to cold surfaces, so starting with ice promised better results. Also, dozens of six-sided cubes offers more surface area for the smoke to penetrate than a pan of water.
  • Once the pellet grill was at temp, we let the ice smoke for an hour.
  • After 60 minutes, the ice had melted and the remaining water adopted a yellow hue. Unsettling? A little, but it was also a good sign that we had been successful.
  • Rather than make cubes, we opted for crushed ice, which we could use in more drinks. The smoke water was poured into a resealable bag and frozen overnight. The next day, we took a hammer to the block of yellow-tinted ice. A few strikes and, voila, we had crushed smoked ice that could be added to any drink.

The Results: How Does Smoked Ice Taste?

Based on the reaction, pretty fantastic. If repeated use is any indication, smoked ice should be a staple of every party. Some of our guinea pigs tried it in Bloody Marys, then kept putting them in every Bloody Mary thereafter. The ice infused the drink with a nice smokiness that played off the spiciness of the Bloody Mary. The more the ice melted, the more apparent the smoke flavor became. Others put it in whisky and got the same results—a subtle smokiness that grew more prominent as the ice melted.

The consensus was that smoked ice is a pretty cool novelty with unlimited possibilities. Imagine adding smoked ice to a Black Russian, a Manhattan, a Dark and Stormy, and even iced coffee; or using it in that VO your father-in-law left behind last Christmas. The ice could also be used to add smoke to food—just substitute smoked ice in any recipe that calls for water. Next time, though, we’d nix the A-Maze Tube. The extra smoke wasn’t necessary and, when the ice fully melted, the flavor was a little overpowering.