Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics

Smoke in the Woods

Charcoal Boulevardier 6


3oz Charcoal Aged Boulevardier (recipe below)

Peat Monster Scotch Rinse

Absinthe (atomizer)

Flamed Orange Twist


Add the hardwood charcoal aged Boulevardier to a chilled mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Rinse a cocktail glass with Peat Monster Scotch. Strain the chilled drink into the scotch rinsed glass. Grab an atomizer filled with Absinthe (I prefer St. George Spirits), light a match and then spray the absinthe over the match into the glass. Admire the pyrotechnics, the spray again. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.


Orange citrus, light anise and smoke on the nose. Light and smooth upfront with an aged more coherent flavor profile, highlighted by the sweet bourbon and robust flavor of the Carpano Antica, while the Campari lends it’s famous bitter orange flavor, although certainly less bitter than usual. Around the midpallate the rich smokey flavor comes through, as does more citrus and mild anise. The finish is ever so mildly bitter, with notes of burnt tobacco, quinine and firewood. The lingering campfiresque taste will leave you yearning for more.

Charcoal Boulevardier 2

How to: Charcoal Aged Boulevardier:

  1. Mix equal parts Knob Creek (or other Bourbon), Campari and Carpano Antica in a large glass jar or other suitable storage vessel.
  2. Add about 1lb of 100% Natural Hardwood Charcoal, cut into smaller pieces if needed.
  3. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 7-10 days. Start tasting around day 5 and see what you like best.
  4. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter multiple times (use a fresh one each time) until most of the sediment has been removed. This is the most painful part of the process, but the end product will be more than worth it.

A few tips:

  • Obviously using 100% Natural Hardwood is needed, i.e. essentially burnt wood. Don’t poison yourself with some chemical laden charcoal briquette nonsense.
  • Second, cutting the wood is a pain in the ass in the kitchen, so try to take as many small pieces from the bag as you can to save yourself the headache of cutting it.
  • Third, remember that unfiltered whiskey often has a bit of sediment in the bottom from the charred barrels, so don’t freak out if there is a little bit left that you can’t get it out. If you bought natural hardwood without chemicals, it won’t kill you… I think.

Charcoal Boulevardier 3

Peat Monster Rinse



If you haven’t been “tuning in,” here is a brief recap: This month’s Mixology Monday is titled “Fire” and is hosted by Muse of Doom on her excellent site Feu de Vie. Check out En Fuego for the spiel and the scoop. I really love this theme as there is so much one could do with it and I was hoping to come up with another Fire themed cocktail.

I have a confession to make…. 

…I’ve been holding out on you. About a year ago I made a hardwood charcoal aged Boulevardier. I’ve been sipping it on and off, sometimes by itself, other times to add a little earthen smoke to other cocktails. I kept meaning to do a write up of it, then something else would come along, I’d forget, etc.

Charcoal Boulevardier

If this sounds brilliant, it is, but I can’t take the credit for it. I saw an article last year on a cocktail from the Marvel Bar in Mineapolis, MN, called Lincoln County, which was a riff on a Boulevardier, aged in hardwood charcoal for 10 days.

To add even more smoke, I typically rinse the glass with a generous amount of Peat Monster Scotch and of course use a FLAMED orange twist.

Obviously, with the Boulevardier being my favorite cocktail, I had to give it a shot. I decided to use the more traditional ratio of equal parts Knob Creek, Carpano Antica and Campari. I let it age for ten days, tasting it along the way.

I ended up siphoning off half of it at 7 days due to inpatience, but in the end was glad I did. By 10 days it had grown a little too “charcoaly” for my tastes, although this could be due to the potential differences in amounts of charcoal used (i.e. I eyeballed it). That being said, the ten day batch works great when used more like a bitters, to add smoke and earth to other cocktails.

Fast forward to this Mixology Monday. I love the theme, Fire, and just happened to have a spicy drink in the que, (see En Fuego) that fit the fire theme from a “taste” perspective, i.e. this one will set your mouth on fire. Being a huge fan of smokey and earthy flavors, I wanted to do another drink that fit the theme from this perspective, while still incorporating some “fire” into the cocktail.

Charcoal Boulevardier 7

The decision to finally breakout my hoarded Boulevardier was twofold. First, to be honest, I’d kind of forgotten about it. Luckily the other day, I was fortunate enough to receive a barrel aged Boulevardier from Chef John Maher, co-owner of the upcoming The Rogue Gentlemen, in Richmond, Va. This thing was delicious (expect a full writeup soon) and left me wanting more. Thus, I turned to my Charcoal Aged Boulevardier.

Mine was quite a different experience from the smooth mature Boulevardier from The Rogue Gentlemen, the charcoal having given it heavy smoke, woodsy and earthen flavors, while still obtaining a hint of that refined aged taste. The trade-off with mine being that while the longer it sat, the more “aged” it would taste, that also meant the more charcoal flavor would infuse. At first this is a good thing, after all we are going for a smoked flavor, but after too long it gets a bit too potent. Again for my tastes, I found about 7 days to be the perfect time frame to add a little aged flavor and a lot of smoke, without it become so unbearably “charcoaly” that you wouldn’t enjoy it on it’s own.

The second was a recent comment I received on my post for Boulevardier. The commenter, Arkham_Razors, mentioned that they loved their Boulevardier with an absinthe rinse. While I have done a lot of interesting things with a Boulevardier, I’ve never tried one with an absinthe rinse. I’ve even done a whiskey version of The Bittersweet Garden, which is Boulevardier-esque and has some anise flavor from the Green Chartreuse (likely to show up soon, as this riff is my goto drink at the moment).

Charcoal Boulevardier 5

Obviously, I had to try an absinthe rinsed Boulevardier and as expected, it was quite good. Thanks again to Arkham_Razors for the idea. Coming back to the Fire theme, I thought, hell, why not try to rinse the glass with absinthe and then light it on fire. I tried it in a metal dish first and it got pretty hot, which made me nervous to crack/blow up my “fancy” cocktail glasses. I then tried to squirt some over a flame with a dropper, which just extinguished the match, i.e. less then interesting. Finally, thinking back to my pyromaniac days as a toddler child, I “wised” up and bought an Atomizer and filled it with absinthe. Spraying this over a flame made for some cool pyrotechnics (think hairspray and cigarette lighter), while adding some scorched absinthe flavor to the drink.

The combo of an old and often forgotten favorite, my Peat Monster Scotch rinsed, charcoal aged Boulevardier (say that three times fast), and a flamed Absinthe spray on top, fit the bill perfectly for a fire themed cocktail. Naturally, a flamed orange twist is the garnish of choice.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this Mixology Monday as much as I have, whether you’ve contributed, imbibed or just read about some of the cocktails. From my end you’ve got the spicy fire of En Fuego or the smoked and flamed Boulevardier presented here. Give them a shot, let me know what you think and be sure to check out the other entries in the round up. Thanks again to Muse of Doom for hosting and be sure to check out her site Feu de Vie.

Charcoal Boulevardier 4

10 Responses to “Smoke in the Woods”

  1. Apple and Snake | The Straight Up

    […] serrano peppers, ginger liqueur and habanero tincture called En Fuego. I followed that one up with, Smoke in the Woods, a charcoal aged Boulevardier with flamed absinthe on top. Besides hitting the fire theme, this one […]


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