Excluding certain small-batch bourbons and twenty-five-year-old single malt Scotches, the best thing you can have in your glass at the moment is a Smoked Turkey.
No, this is not some Thanksgiving-themed fever dream. It's a specialty cocktail at The Blind Barbour in Raleigh that stimulates your palate with an array of flavors: Wild Turkey rye, yellow chartreuse, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, and a habanero syrup. Oh, and smoke. Lots of smoke.
The concoction owes its existence to a Texan gentleman who's adopted The Blind Barbour as his watering hole whenever he's in town. According to Joey Barbour, the bar's owner, one night this out-of-town regular came in and asked Barbour to make him something smoky with a little kick.
Barbour set to work experimenting. He went with the rye, which has a rounder spice flavor profile than sweet bourbon. He added the yellow chartreuse for a touch of earthiness. Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, an aperitif made in Puebla, Mexico, and the bar's own habanero syrup took care of the heat. The smoky part posed more of a challenge.
At first, Barbour tried resting a glass over smoke while making the drink. That was promising, but it did not produce enough smoke. Then Barbour got "a smoke gun"–a glass-bulb-and-hose contraption that might well bring back memories of late-night dorm-room bong sessions to a certain demographic of patron. The gun funnels the smoke from cherry wood chips into the drink itself. With a bit of swirling liquid and smoke, the desired visual effect is achieved to perfection.
The initial sip is pleasant, smooth, with a smoky aura but not remarkable. Then, at the third or fourth swallow, the heat of the habanero and chile claims residence at the back of your throat, providing a gentle but persistent reminder that you're holding a glass of complexity in your hand. From that point on, the savory layers of spice, smoke, and real heat make your taste buds dance.
"When there are ten or twelve people in here, all it takes is for someone to order that first one," Barbour says. They start watching the smoke gun in action and "then at least two or three others will want one."
He says he also gets customers coming in who have never heard of the Smoked Turkey. "They just say 'Give me that smoky thing' after seeing it on someone's Instagram or Facebook."
Now you know: "that smoky thing" is called a Smoked Turkey and you definitely want one.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Turkey Lurking."