I was first introduced to the use of bell jars in cocktail-making by Frankie Solarik at Barchef in Toronto. His smoked vanilla Manhattan is a thing of legend in the city. Finding my own bell jar online in Canada proved to be difficult, and I ended up buying two out of the trunk of some guy’s car after connecting on Kijiji. Anyway, once you’ve had a whisky-based cocktail like a Manhattan that has first sat on a bed of burning hickory embers, you’ll never go back. It really and truly is worth the hassle.
Besides the bell jar, which will set you back around $25, you’ll need a bag of hickory chips ($5) and a good pastry torch ($35). Do not skimp on the torch (like I did) as it will take an hour to smoke the wood and you actually won’t get much smoke from the process. Mix your drink as you would normally but use a large spherical ice cube as the drink has to sit a bit before consumed. Put some kind of fire-proof pedestal of sorts on the bottom of the bell jar base, fill with wood chips and then torch under your kitchen fume hood. Blow on the embers to get the smoke going then put the bell on and mix your drink. When you’re ready, place the drink(s) on the pedestal, replace the bell and wait about two minutes. Pure joy.