I’m dreaming of waterfalls and forest trails with this Cherry Gin Smash – Banff Smash. Castle and Key’s summer cocktail competition looks a bit different this year. Instead of inviting mixologists from the region onsite to compete with their best Restoration Release Gin drink, the theme is Summer Staycation. Or, as I like to think of it, where you wish you’d been this summer.
I’m dreaming of empty forest trails, fast-moving waterfalls in deep canyons and water so blue it looks like a gem. Last year we vacationed in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada, taking the Icefields Parkway between the two. It’s a place I’ll always dream of, and when it’s this hot outside, I’m yearning for cool trails, misty waterfalls and the wind going through those canyon paths.
I put together this cocktail in celebration of that trip – with fresh cherries from the PNW, maple syrup to celebrate all things Canada, and adding sage to the mix to remind me of the smell of the trails first thing in the morning, and juniper berries along the trail. It’s a trip I’d hoped to repeat soon. Restoration’s juniper, pine and citrus notes serve as the perfect base for this reflection.
I just wish I were sipping it after a day at Johnston Canyon or Athabasca Falls.
For the cocktail, I knew I wanted to use cherries and maple for two reasons – cherries are in season and they’re a fruit that thrives in Canada. And maple, well, do I really need to explain that? The two together are a tasty combination, but I was thinking of forest trails and how beautiful the air was in the parks. We’d often touch the evergreens as we went past – pine, even some juniper – so it was a perfect match for this release of Castle and Key’s gin.
To get that sense of herbaceousness, I looked at the sage plant I have that’s thriving right now. A touch of sage as an aromatic in the glass (much as you would a mint julep, I am a Kentucky girl at heart) and a bit muddled in the glass and it brought out that essence of pine, juniper and vegetation that runs through the gin.
I have to admit, this cocktail turned out wonderfully rich, but easy to put together, other than pitting the cherries. You don’t need many if you’re using sweet cherries. Just four gave the drink a vibrant color and beautiful cherry flavor. I loved that I didn’t need to add any cherry liqueur because I wanted to keep the drink bright and fresh. It already has two ounces of gin in it anyway.
While a smash is traditionally served on the rocks, I think this cherry gin smash is too beautiful to put over ice, and the gin flavors can hold their own if they’re not too diluted by serving over ice.
I will advise using a barrel-aged maple syrup if you can find some. I’m in Kentucky, so it’s not a hard find for someone who loves bourbon as much as I do. Both Pappy & Co. and Watson’s make incredible barrel-aged maples luscious in cocktails.
But, less talking, more recipe. I give you the Banff Smash – a tipple for the forest trails and waterfalls I wish I were visiting this summer.
Banff Smash – Cherry Sage Smash
- 4 fresh cherries pitted
- 2 oz Castle and Key Restoration Release Gin
- ¼ oz maple syrup, barrel-aged if available
- 3 sage leaves – 2 to muddle, 1 to prepare the glass
- 3/4 oz lemon juice
- Garnish: sage leaf or sprig and cherries as desired.
- Rub the inside of a coupe glass with a sage leaf, making sure to capture the rim of the glass. Discard the leaf and set the glass aside. Place cherries, maple syrup and lemon juice in the bottom of a mixing tin and muddle well. Add 2 sage leaves, muddle again, more lightly this time. Add gin and ice. Then shake for 30 seconds or until the outside of the shaker is so cold it hurts. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with sage and cherries as desired.