Our Curious Minds Inquire series in parntership with Discovery Place Science is so much fun for kids. But, here at the NC Science Trail, we are full believers in adults having fun too. So, for all of you over 21s who are looking for a little science fun at home, here’s your newest experiment – just in time for a chilly Friday evening. And if you like this post, check out DP’s Science on the Rocks events each and every month. In support of tough adulting days, they’re always on our calendar.

Smoky Infusion
Master Mixology with Discovery Place Science

Discovery Place Science’s Master Mixology series explores the intersection of science and alcohol, plus fun adult beverage demonstrations and recipes!

For thousands of years, humans have infused food and drinks with smoke. From beer brewing to beef jerky, people love the rich flavors imparted by this unique chemical process.

Infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds from a plant (like tea leaves or herbs) to achieve a desired flavor. The plant material is left in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, and the flavor compounds leach out of the plant to be suspended in the solution.

This happens through the process of osmotic diffusion, where the liquid within the plant experiences a pressure difference from the liquid it is submerged in, passing back and forth through the permeable cell membranes until the pressure equalizes. This is why the hot water used in tea will turn colors as the tea leaves steep.

Smoky Science: Smoky flavors come predominantly from your sense of smell interacting with your taste buds. It is estimated that the aroma of a food is responsible for as much as 90% of its flavor.

Smoked liquids have their roots in two key spirits: Scotch whisky and mezcal from Mexico. Smoky flavor in liquid can either be infused by the wood used in the distilling process or added after the fact by a smoke gun or other device.

Did you know? Smoke also acts as a binding agent, smoothing out the flavors and bringing balance to many beverages.

Let’s make a Smoky Sour. If you’d like a printable version, click on the pdf below:


  • Coupe or martini glass
  • Muddler
  • Shaker and strainer
  • 2 oz whisky
  • 1 oz rosemary infused honey syrup (recipe inset)
  • A few fresh blackberries, muddled
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs


  1. Make the rosemary infused honey syrup in advance (See below).
  2. In a shaker, muddle the blackberries with the rosemary-honey syrup.
  3. Top with ice and add lemon juice and whisky.
  4. Shake vigorously and strain into a coupe or martini glass.  
  5. Garnish with a small sprig of rosemary and enjoy!

Rosemary Infused Honey Syrup

  • 5 large sprigs of fresh rosemary 
  • ½ cup honey 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • ½ cup water 
  • Mesh strainer 

Pluck rosemary leaves from the stem and mix with honey, sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the honey and sugar. Reduce the heat and let simmer for one minute, or longer for thicker syrup. Remove from the heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Strain the cooled syrup into a container.

Elevate Your Cocktail! Use a smoke gun to add an extra smoky flavor to cocktails. Or, using an attachment accessory with a smoke gun, experiment with edible bubble mix to top cocktails with smoke-infused bubbles!