Smoke: Playing with Laphroaig


After Fire! in August which gave me an excuse to make a classic tiki Volcano Bowl, this month’s Mixology Monday challenge was Smoke!, the theme picked by Elana of the Stir and Strain blog.

When considering smoke, two ingredients came to my mind immediately: mezcal and Laphroaig. I decided to focus on Laphroaig as I don’t use it very often. I bought a bottle after falling in love with Sam Ross’s Penicillin, a new classic that pairs blended scotch with ginger, lemon, and a touch of smoke from the Laphroaig. Sam seems to play with Laphroaig quite a bit; his Fitzroy is a great Rob Roy variation where Laphroaig makes a great impact.

It's been a rough day...

Being familiar with these two cocktails already, I thought that I would use the MxMo challenge as an occasion to explore less familiar tastes. So of course I started flipping through the pages of beta cocktails and sure enough, something caught my eye. The End of the Road by Chris McMillian is a cocktail that pairs Laphroaig with Campari and green chartreuse. It has an intimidating list of ingredients, and it may have been beginner’s anxiety, but I managed to spill the entire drink on my counter when positioning the glass for a photo. The smoke, which was already present when I was preparing the drink, became intoxicating, but I just forged ahead and made another one.

The End of the Road (Chris McMillian): Laphroaig 10 yr, Campari, green chartreuse
The End of the Road | 1 oz Islay scotch | 1 oz Campari | 1 oz green Chartreuse | stir and strain into coupe glass

The first impression was of strong smoke, followed by acid, bitter grapefruit. Then on the next sips you can taste the sweetness from the Campari and the Chartreuse, with herbal aromas from the Chartreuse in the finish, followed by more smoke. It’s one of those drinks that you sip slowly and meditate on, because of its intensity and because each sip tastes a little different.

Continuing on the same path, I thought I would try a twist, the Start of a New Road. The cocktail was created by Sam Treadway based on a request for “something ruthless”… what a program. It combines the End of the Road with the components of a daiquiri, adding rhum agricole and lime juice. It sounded a little crazy but why not… I was feeling adventurous. The smoke was still there and very strong, this time followed by an incredibly bitter finish in the first sip. After a while the herbs and lime started to come out more. The bitter finish seemed to fade over time to give place to a classic daiquiri profile layered with smoke and bitterness.

Start of a New Road
Start of a New Road | 1/2 oz Islay scotch | 1/2 oz Campari | 1/2 oz green Chartreuse | 3/4 oz rhum agricole blanc | 3/4 oz lime juice | stir and strain into coupe glass

Being back on the path of classic cocktails with the daiquiri, I thought that I would try variations on classic drinks utilizing Laphroaig. Audrey Saunders’ Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini was the next logical choice. Although it uses vodka and does not contain vermouth, it manages to strongly evoke a dry martini, with a touch of smoke. It’s a fun drink because it does not taste at all as I would have imagined based on its ingredients list alone. The vodka itself does not provide much flavor but helps develop and marry the iodine and smoke of the Laphroaig with the anise from the pastis, which is quite an unexpected pairing but a successful one.

The Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini (Audrey Saunders)
Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini | 2 oz vodka | 1/2 oz Islay scotch | stir and strain into a pastis-rinsed coupe glass | lemon twist garnish

I decided to finish my explorations with a Last Word variation, which I thought would be a very enticing drink for those with taste buds that are maybe a little less adventurous than mine (my husband being the test subject this time). Phil Ward’s Pete’s Word is a classic equal parts Last Word where Laphroaig replaces the gin. It’s crisp and fresh with the long lush finish of the Last Word, and a distinctive layer of smoke. And I guess I went full circle because I conclude this post with another drink that combines Laphroaig and green Chartreuse like my first drink, the End of the Road.

Pete’s Word | 3/4 oz Islay scotch | 3/4 oz green Chartreuse | 3/4 oz maraschino | 3/4 oz lime juice | shake and strain into a coupe glass

Thank you to Elana for hosting the MxMo challenge this month and for picking a theme that proved very inspiring to me.

12 thoughts on “Smoke: Playing with Laphroaig

  1. Great round up of drinks! Also shows how something as smokey as Laphroaig can be used in more ways than you might initially think. I love The End of the Road…may have to fix one for myself right now. Cheers!

      • Laphroaig is definitely more versatile than you’d think. Also try The Peat Monster from Compass Box. Might just be my favorite Scotch. It’s really peaty but also has some flavor to back it up.

        End of the Road was good stuff, definitely up my alley. It tastes a bit like a variation of my own drink, The Bittersweet Garden, that I’ve been obsessed with lately. Campari, Rye, Green Chartreuse, Fernet, Sweet Vermouth, Peat Monster rinse. I may get around to posting it one of these days.

      • I’ve tried the Peat Monster, I like it too. If I remember correctly it was a little more subtle/less intensely peaty than the Laphroaig.
        I am glad that you enjoyed the End of the Road. I am looking forward to your post on the Bittersweet Garden!

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