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Smokestack Lightnin’

April 2021

Where the love of mixology and good music combine

Adding smoke to a cocktail can be achieved in different ways, but nothing beats the visual impact of seeing the smoke rise from the glass. In this homage to old school blues legend Howlin’ Wolf, I make the smoke center stage while adding enough sweet and spicy notes to balance things out.

Smokestack Lightnin’

Flavor Profile: rich, spicy, and smoky   




2 oz New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1/2 oz Tawny Port

1 barspoon Demerara Gum syrup

2 dashes Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters

1 dash Pooter bitters 





Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass. Stir for approximately 30 seconds. Serve over large ice cube in a large rocks glass.


Garnish: Smoke


My Take:


What better way to honor a great blue singer like Howlin’ Wolf than to create an Old Fashioned riff that echoes the blues he crooned with his heart and soul? New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a high quality, affordable whiskey that works wonders in Old Fashioned riffs like Smokestack Lightnin’. At 100 proof, New Riff is stout enough to make a great base spirit for cocktails, and the high rye mashbill gives the drink a little extra spice. Wine finishes are getting more and more popular in bourbon and rye bottlings, but here I opted to let Port play accompaniment to the bourbon all on its own. Tawny Port adds a rich, golden raisin undertone to balance out the spice in the bourbon. I decided to use the very rich Demerara gum syrup here to enhance the richness of the Port instead of just traditional simple syrup which I find a bit thin.


Now on to the star of the show: smoke. While Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole bitters act as the base seasoning, I also added just a dash of Pooter bitters; their smoky and salty nature play perfectly with the smoke garnish. You can use any wood chip you want, but I found maple to work best. Finally, we have the smoker itself. There are several options on the market for a home cocktail enthusiast to choose from. However, VELEP’s Cocktail Smoking Box is a great option, and is far better made than many cheaper alternatives on the web. You definitely get what you pay for, and I give it my highest recommendation.       


Music Pairing:


Howlin’ Wolf “Wang Dang Doodle” Back Door Man (Chess)


Hands down, this is my favorite Howlin’ Wolf tune. The lyrics are irreverent and fun. Wolf crushes them with the power of a tornado. I can imagine hearing this tune in a seedy, smoke filled, 1960 Chicago blues bar on a late Saturday night. Put on your dancing shoes and romp and stomp till midnight.