You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s 5 O’Clock somewhere”, but as we as anglers know, it’s always 5 O’clock on the water. Whether you’re celebrating the catch of a lifetime or drowning your sorrows after losing one, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as kicking your feet up and enjoying a refreshing cocktail after a long day on the water.

drink in hand

For this series, we’ve teamed up with YETI to sit down with some of our mutual fishing friends and get the lowdown on their go-to celebratory beverage. In this installment, we met up with legendary PNW guide: Lael Paul Johnson, or LPJ, as some might know him as, to see how he makes his signature original, “Liquid Smoke” Cocktail.

Who is Lael Paul Johnson? 

Whether you’ve only spent a few hours behind the cork of a 2-handed rod, or regularly spend your weekend wading up to your chest in ice-cold, ripping currents, it’s not hard to deduce that this faction of fly-fishing is one of the most difficult pursuits out there. Not to mention, when you take into consideration that the species you’re targeting is basically a living, breathing, equivalent of a military-grade Mark 48 torpedo, and has about as much desire to eat your fly as you do; the act of fishing for anadromous fish in the PNW seems like an almost impossible feat to pull of all-together.

lael on the river

Yet, with all factors considered, there are some folks who are crazy enough to do it. Furthermore, there are a few brave individuals who’ve dedicated their lives to not only studying the art of this kind of fishing down to a science but are patient enough to teach it, and make a living as a guide. This is where Lael comes in.

salmon in hand
Flylords’ Pat Perry and Lael after landing an impressive Coho Salmon.

Lael Paul Johnson is a fly-fishing guide who’s based out of the state of Washington, and for over a decade now, primarily focuses his efforts on targeting ocean-run fish, such as Steelhead and Salmon, as well as resident trout, on the fly. Unlike many other guides in his area, LPJ primarily focuses on getting his clients on fish via the traditional manner of fly-fishing for steelhead and salmon, which involves casting a 2-handed rod and enticing a fish to eat your fly on a downstream swing. In case it wasn’t conveyed in the previous paragraphs, this is an extremely difficult endeavor.

lael using a 2-handed rod

When it comes to fishing, Lael is the definition of dedicated. Spending 200+ days on the water every year: Lael is the embodiment of a steelhead fisherman. When Lael isn’t rowing down one of his local rivers, he can be found on bone-covered banks of faraway lands, leading hosted trips for Salmon and Steelhead in fly-fishing destinations such as Alaska, BC, and Patagonia. In an interview with Lael last year, we asked him what his motivation for getting on the water was. His response: “Finding a fish that is going to change my or someone else’s life”. A Guide like that is hard to find.

How to Make Lael’s “Liquid Smoke” Cocktail:


  • Echinacea powder
  • Aromatic Bitters
  • Ginger Beer
  • Ice
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Irish Whiskey
  • Rosemary

ingredients for the cocktail

Step 1: Add a Dash of Echinacea Powder

We know – right about now, you may be asking yourself, what is Echinacea Powder? Commonly known for its ability to strengthen the immune system, Echinacea powder, obtained from grinding Echinacea flowers, is a common herbal remedy for cold and flu symptoms. In this drink, the powder is going to be used to substitute out gun powder (yes, gun powder), which is used in the drink that inspired Lael’s “Liquid Smoke”; which is appropriately named, “Gun Powder Punch”. Obtaining this powder is pretty easy, and can be found anywhere wholistic medicine is sold, or on Amazon.

Once you’ve got your Echinacea powder, add a teaspoon to the bottom of your cup.

 echinacea powder

Step 2: Add in your Bitters

Next, you’re going to add some aromatic bitters on top of the Echinacea. If you commonly use bitters, feel free to add to taste, but for those with less drink-making experience, 5 or 6 shakes of the bottle should do.

adding in bitters

Step 3: Add Some Ginger Beer and Stir

Now it’s time to add your liquid base. For this, we’ll use ginger beer. As the ginger beer is added to the powdery mix, the concoction will begin to foam, so pay attention while you’re pouring. For the best results, go ahead and give a 2-3-second pour. Now, take a whisk or a spoon and give your ingredients a stir until the foam has settled.

pouring in some ginger beer

Step 4: Add in Your Ice

Now that you have your main flavor additives set, it’s time to add in your ice. It’s best to wait until this step to add the ice so that the powder and bitters can mix together properly. Adding in your ice first can overcrowd your ingredients in the cup and cause the powder and bitters to clump together.

scooping ice

Step 5: Pour in Some Pineapple Juice

For this step, we recommend using fresh pineapple juice if you have the means and time to do so. However, if not, canned is totally fine. For this step, go ahead and add about 3 or 4 tablespoons of pineapple juice. If you want to adjust for sweetness, you can always add more. Once you’ve poured your desired amount, go ahead and give your mix another stir.

pouring pinapple juice

Step 6: Add Your Whiskey

Now, it’s time to add the crown jewel. For this recipe, we are using Limavady single-barrel Irish whiskey. The barrel-aged nature of the whiskey adds that desired smokey profile that gives the cocktail its name. For you scotch fans, some low-budget scotch will also do the trick.

Once you’ve selected your desired whiskey, go ahead and give a healthy pour of your spirit into the mix. Depending on how much you want to accomplish with the rest of your evening, feel free to add a lot, or a little…

pouring pineapple juice
The best way to enjoy a refreshing cocktail: is out of a YETI Lowball. Click HERE, to get yours.

Step 7: Garnish with Rosemary

For the final step, garnish your cocktail with a stem of Rosemary. You won’t necessarily taste it in the cocktail, but it will add a strong aroma which will add an extra level of sensory stimulation when you’re enjoying your drink.

springling rosemary

Once you’ve given your mixture one final stir, it’s time to enjoy! The Liquid Smoke cocktail pairs best with friends and the aroma of fish slime still on your fingers from a long day spent on the mighty waters of the Pacific Northwest.

enjoying drinks with friends

Thank you to Lael for sharing his afternoon with us and showing us a few new tricks on the water and behind the mini-bar. You can find him on Instagram HERE. Also, thank you to YETI for keeping our cups full and our cocktails cold. If you enjoyed this piece, be on the lookout for more just like it down the line. As always: drink responsibly. Cheers!

cocktail cheers

This article was published as part of a paid campaign between Flylords LLC and YETI Coolers, LLC. All opinions presented in this article are genuine and solely reflect the opinions of Flylords LLC. 

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