We’re delving into the Whiskey Smash and some fun variations this week as we start a series of 5 Quarantine Whiskey Smashes and I’ve got some epic flavor combinations coming up for you.
If you’ve been keeping track, we’ve had a series of Quarantine Old Fashioneds ( Breakfast Wakey Wakey, Smoke and Spice, Home School, Taco Truck, and Campari/Bitter Lessons ), Quarantine Manhattans (Balanced Perfection (Perfect Manhattan), Coffee Manhattan, Chocolate Ginger Manhattan, French Quarter Manhattan, and the Caramel Orange Manhattan.), and Quarantine Whiskey Sours (Blackberry Sunset, Whiskey Tiki, Blue Mood Orange, Ya Basic, and Peach Rosemary). Five variations of each, but all with the theme of using what we can find at home, or substituting as necessary to keep our social distance.
While the whiskey smash is technically a julep (and julep week will be coming up soon, too), the smash is infinitely versatile, consisting of a little fruit, some herbs, sugar and spirit. And, given that we are in quarantine, I’ll be using mostly frozen fruit from my freezer in addition to the fresh fruit I have on hand.
We’ll start with a basic whiskey smash, but later in the we’re going to mix things up with some other fruit, spirit and herb options. At home I’ve got a sage, rosemary and mint available to me, and I found some small oregano, basil and thyme plants to keep my in less seasons herbs.
The classic smash was recorded by Jerry Thomas in the 1880s, but it’s likely the actual cocktail had been around for a while before it was recorded. Today it’s often a separate category of cocktail from the julep and while April is julep month, I’m saving juleps for next week.
There are several ways to put together a whiskey smash. You can either build it in the glass itself or use a cocktail shaker to chill and blend the cocktail. One way is to put your fruit and herbs in the bottom of your shaker tin and muddle them, then add the simple syrup and whiskey, shake and pour into a rocks glass – adding a lovely head of crushed ice to the top of the cocktail along with a fresh sprig of mint or the herb of your choice.
Alternately, you can decide to juice the citrus if using, and start with just the lemon juice and herbs in the bottom of tin, add ice and forgo the muddling as you’ve already juiced the citrus or fruit and the action of shaking the cocktail will muddle the mint before it’s poured out.
Some people prefer a quick shake then dumping the cocktail, ice and all, into a rocks glass and adding crushed ice, without straining. This leaves bits of pulp, fruit and herbs in the cocktail which means the cocktail continues to change a bit as you drink it. If you’re using dark berries, this can make a really interesting color contrast in the final cocktail.
Others prefer straining to get all the bits of pulp and herb from the cocktail, making it more consistent throughout your consumption of it, but of course, this is all up to your preference. I’m more of a strainer girl, simply because I’m not a huge pulp fan, but consuming alcohol infused pieces of fruit left over in a cocktail is always a hit.
The Whiskey Smash is a very, very forgiving recipe. There are hundreds of ways to make it and hundreds of flavor combinations, so use what you have on hand that sounds good to you. I’ll be making smashes this week based on syrups I already have made up and what fruit I have fresh and in the freezer.
As a true Quarantine cocktail, this one is endlessly flexible and always tasty.
You must be careful muddling fresh herbs. Fresh herbs, like mint, are extremely fragile, and don’t need much to release their flavor and aroma. Sometimes just two or three presses with a muddler is enough. In some cases, you can choose not to muddle at all if you’re using lemon juice instead of lemon wedges as the action of shaking up the cocktail creates the same action as the muddler to release the flavors in the herbs.
If you’re not careful, you’ll decimate the mint or herbs, and you’ll be picking tiny green flakes out of your teeth while you’re drinking it. I usually pull the leaves going into the shaker off the stem, as the stems can sometimes impart bitterness to your drink.
Smash Hit – Starter Whiskey Smash
- ½ lemon, quartered
- 1 oz simple syrup (I used vanilla simple syrup)
- 8-10 mint leaves
- 2 oz bourbon (I used 100 proof Old Forester)
- Garnish: mint sprig
- Place quartered half lemon and simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Muddle to release the lemon juice. Add 8-10 mint leaves and muddle just 2 or three times more – lightly. Add the bourbon, fill with ice and shake vigorously until the outside of the tin is so cold it’s hard to hold. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice and garnish with a lemon wheel and a fresh sprig or two of mint.