Cocktail of the Week: Up in Smoke

Gina Chersavani makes smoked sugar cotton candy which will be used as a topping for her Up In Smoke cocktail at PS-7

What do you get when you cross one of Washington’s most innovative and crafty bar chefs with a New Zealand spirit that prides itself with being offbeat and irreverent? The answer is Gina Chersavani’s Up in Smoke, an award-winning cocktail forged from vodka and marigold topped off with an alluring poof of smoked sugar cotton candy. This whimsical tipple captures all the fun of an autumn carnival and combines it with sophisticated ambiance of an outdoor performance of Shakespeare in the park.
Chersavani, a self-proclaimed “mixtress” is well known for the fanciful cocktails at PS-7, where she presides. The Up in Smoke adds another creative choice to the already-eclectic menu.

This fun concoction was designed for the World Cocktail Cup sponsored by 42 below Vodka. According to Chersavani, the idea of the contest was to be as daring as you want to be. “The rule rules were, ‘there are no rules’,” she explained.

Her idea of cotton candy cocktail certainly fit the bill. ”It wasn’t so much as using cotton candy, but more of the idea of using it as a vessel,” Chersavani explained. “It was a way of putting the sugar into a cocktail in a different form.”

After winning the Washington, D.C., round of the competition, Chersavani had to tote her cotton candy-making machine to New York for the U.S. finals. She rode with the contraption on the train and schlepped it around Manhattan on a dolly. While she didn’t advance to the next round of the competition in New Zealand, luckily for Washingtonians, she brought her cocktail back to D.C. where it earned a spot on PS-7’s fall cocktail menu.

While most folks do not have a cotton candy machine lurking in their kitchens, replicating Chersavani’s cocktail is easily achievable task for home bartenders. The drink is enjoyable with or without its fluffy topper.

The base (minus the cotton candy) of the Up In Smoke is a mixture of vodka lemon, honey, bitters and marigold seed. While the latter ingredient may sound exotic, Chersavani says that it’s more common than you think. It can be purchased at Teaism, Whole Foods and health food store. She steeps the marigold as though she were making a pot of herbal tea to create a base liquid. The marigold gives this potable a bright and sunny fresh flavor.

Even though she likes to utilize out of the ordinary ingredients, Chersavani prefers to keep the components in her cocktails accessible. She doesn’t like recipes where the ingredients are too difficult or rare to find. “That’s not going to work for most people,” she says.

So, if you are seeking fall festival-style sweet and don’t feel like heading to the suburbs, swing by PS-7 for a decidedly adult twist on one of your childhood treats. Or, if you feel like relaxing at home, you can whip up this cocktail on your own and add a pinch or two of smoked sugar to suit your taste.

Up in Smoke

1.5 oz 42 Below Vodka
1 oz lemon juice
2 oz Marigold Tea or a Teazan of fruit would
be a good substitute
2 or 3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 or 3 dashes Gary Reagan bitters
In a shaker 3/4 filled with ice, combine all ingredients, shake until frothy, strain into a small wine glass.  Then, top with smoked cotton candy.

Readers may sample the “Up In Smoke” at PS-7 located at 777 I Street NW.

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