Smoke That Juice

For two weeks, we’ve got top chefs sharing their little-known tricks for backyard cooking.

pineapple chunks on the grill
pineapple chunks on the grill

Photo credit: © StockFood / Heinze, Winfried

Here’s another case of happy kitchen mistakes: “We were screwing around one time,” says Matt Tocco, bar manager of Nashville’s Pinewood Social. “We make smoked Coke, smoked maple syrup and smoked demerara syrup [for cocktails], and one time we decided to smoke a pineapple and juice it to get the smoky quality out of the fruit instead of mescal.” It worked. “The smoke with the sweet and spicy in the drink is so good.”

First, skin and cut the pineapple into large chunks. Now comes the heat. A smoker is a relatively affordable grill attachment, if you plan to use it often, or Tocco says you could grill the pineapple chunks to “get that barbecue flavor profile.” Just “roast the hell out of it” and use some wood chips for flavor. Meaning don’t use propane.

“We’ve used a variety of different woods in the smoking of Coke, as awkward as that sounds,” says Tocco. “We’ve used hickory wood, apple wood, and others to impart different flavors, but [the results are] typically just smoky tasting, unless you try them side by side.”

Once you’ve smoked or charred that pineapple into oblivion, press it to get its juice and discard the pulp. As for the rest…

Smoked Pineapple Margarita
by Matt Tocco
Serves 1

2 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Liquor 43
1/2-1 oz. smoked pineapple juice
1/4 oz. habanero shrub*

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake hard and strain or pour into a glass (salt-rimmed, if you like).

*To make his habanero shrub, Tocco soaks habanero peppers, white wine vinegar, sugar and honey for a few weeks and then strains the liquid. A good substitute is Bittermens bottled Hellfire Shrub, or plain old green Tabasco sauce, which is “what we used at the bar before we started messing around with the shrub,” he says.