Often overshadowed by its forerunner, the mint julep, the origin of the classic whiskey smash stands open to interpretation. The earliest dates back to 1862 and talks about a peculiarly American drink wildly popular among the denizens of the South. The recipe called for a simple concoction of muddled mint leaves and sugar with equal parts peach and regular brandy served over cracked ice. It sounds like a textbook formula for a southern style julep sans the rye or bourbon, but just like any good whiskey needs time to mature, so do cocktail formulas.
The smash makes a couple of notable appearances over the next hundred years – included by mixology luminaries like Harry Johnson and Harry Craddock in their celebrated cocktail almanacs. Each time, the recipe changed slightly. It evolved from a meek mixture of seasonal fruits and whiskey of unspecified parentage to a delicate fusion of bourbon, rye or Canadian Club with powdered sugar and exactly “four sprigs of mint".
More often than not, bar keeping literature from turn-of-the-century Europe and America largely write off the smash simply as a smaller version of the julep. Unless you take into account the tiny additions that the recipe has picked up over its many reincarnations, the difference between a smash and a julep is simply fodder for a semantics debate. So what exactly do you need to make a smash and how do you mix it?
Mix Your Own Whiskey Smash
1 large measure of Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old bourbon
7 sprigs of mint
20ml gomme syrup
Put the lemon in a shaker along with 2 sprigs of mint and muddle well. Fill up the shaker with ice, throw in the 4 sprigs of mint and pour in the gomme syrup. Shake well and double strain into an old-fashioned glass over either crushed or cracked ice. Lightly crush the last sprig of mint, using it as garnish along with a slice of lime, and serve with a long straw.
There is always space for tea – even in a cocktail.
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