Smoking isn’t just allowed at Gas Lantern Drinking Company, the newest Downtown Boise bar — it’s encouraged.
But not the puffing kind you’d be required by local ordinance to step outside to do.
Order a Smoke & Thyme cocktail ($10). The bartender will mix it using Elijah Craig Small Batch bourbon, juice from smoked lemons, whiskey bitters and house-grown thyme.
Using an igniter and a hand-held food smoker, the barkeep will put the drink in a chamber and envelop it with oaky goodness.
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The process takes 30 seconds. When the cocktail is removed, smoke from wood chips drifts above the bar.
“Essentially, you’re adding kind of that oak char back into something like a bourbon or rye,” Gas Lantern co-owner Gavin Haley explains. “It adds kind of another level of depth and character to it.”
When it comes to presentation, smoked cocktails are en fuego. Gas Lantern, which opened Oct. 25 at 701 W. Fulton St., is selling them to nearly every new group of customers that comes in the door.
And don’t worry: “It doesn’t taste like drinking campfire,” Haley notes. Arguably, the smoke has more to do with the smell than the taste.
By the way, want an extra garnish in that cocktail? Coax the bartender into letting you pluck a sprig of thyme or basil from the hydroponic herb garden hanging on the bar’s wall. It’s another cool aspect of Gas Lantern.
Gas Lantern is still settling in among its neighbors at Capitol Boulevard and Fulton Street, all which opened earlier this year at the same building: LongDrop Cider Co., White Dog Brewing Co. — and Smoke & Thyme food trailer in the alley. The large mobile kitchen, which Haley also co-owns, serves burgers, barbecue and other food at the three bars.
Gas Lantern is clean and inviting, with lots of wood and two plush leather couches. The cocktail menu looks like an old-timey newspaper. An old piano adds to the 1920s/1930s ambiance of the bar. “It’s like old meets new,” Haley says.
Two inconspicuously placed flat-screen TVs will satisfy sports addicts. Empty wine barrels will be filled with White Dog beer for aging on a display rack.
Meanwhile, the beer, wine and cocktail options are full-on Downtown.
Besides two signature smoked concoctions, smoke-free selections fill the cocktail menu. For a refreshing pour in a tall glass, try the Southern Oracle ($10): Aviation Gin, lemon sour, Earl Grey tea, ginger beer, lavender bitters and Himalayan sea salt.
If you’re a beer snob, grab a 12-ounce glass of Anderson Valley Huge Arker bourbon barrel imperial stout — on nitro for $8.
Like other Downtown cocktail destinations such as Press & Pony or The Mode, Gas Lantern caters to discerning cocktail drinkers. Particularly whiskey fans.
“The plan is to have 100 different whiskeys in here,” Haley says.
The best part? If you aren’t in the mood for a craft cocktail, you can head next door to White Dog Brewing or LongDrop Cider.
Chris Blanchard, who runs LongDrop, says that’s always been the plan for the adjoining establishments. “We see people going from space to space to space,” he says.
The businesses are connected by doors inside, but at this point, those remain closed because of Idaho alcohol law.
A joint grand opening celebration is planned for Dec. 3. A catering permit might allow patrons to circulate freely throughout the bar, brewery and cider taproom for that day only.
Whatever the case, things are smokin’ at Gas Lantern. The bar runs a happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 to midnight Mondays through Thursdays: Buy one get one free on cocktails, plus half price on select draft beers, glasses of wine and well drinks.
A wraparound patio with New Orleans-made gas lanterns will be rocking soon. If it’s too chilly outside, shoot a free game of pool indoors.
Just make sure to sample one of those smoked beverages. Besides cocktails, you also can order a smoked version of any neat glass of bourbon, scotch or Irish whiskey.
But do yourself a favor: Don’t request any extra smoke.
Haley, who has worked in commercial kitchens for 18 years, knows a thing or two about the art of adding flavor with wood chips.
“A little smoke is great,” he says. “Too much will ruin anything.”
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