The ‘Smash’ is in effect a Julep on a small plan.

To prepare it the following recipe is usually used:

Use medium sized glass.
Dissolve 1 Lump of Sugar. Add 4 leaves of Green Mint, and crush Mint and sugar very lightly together. Place lump of ice in glass. Then add one small glass of either Bacardi Rum, Brandy, Gin, Irish Whisky or Scotch Whisky as fancy dictates. Decorate with a slice of Orange, and squeeze Lemon peel on top.

This recipe, and the quote regarding the “Julep on a small plan,” come almost verbatim from Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide, going back to the original 1862 version of the book.

As is usual with these 19th Century cocktails, before making the Savoy version of the drink I first consulted David Wondrich’s “Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash…” where he notes:

“Thomas’s cursory assessment of the drink leaves one with insufficient appreciation of its importance. From its first appearance in the mid-1840s until after the Civil War, the Smash was just about the most popular thing going. In the 1850s, at the height of the Smash’s popularity, all the “pert young men,” the Broadway dandies, San Francisco swells, and junior New Orleans grandissimes, seemed to spend the warm months of the year with a smash glued to one hand and a “segar” to the other.”

However, to me what was more interesting was the illustration which accompanies the writeup, a picture of the “Fancy Brandy Smash” from Harry Johnson’s 1888 edition of his “New and Improved Illustrated Bartender’s Manual”.

One of the cool things about many of the illustrations from Mr. Johnson’s book is he gives you two pictures, one of the preparation of the drink and another of the serving glass. Looking at his illustration, though, I realized it looked like he was serving his “Fancy Brandy Smash” as an “up” Cocktail.

Fancy Brandy Smash.
(Use a large bar glass.)
1/2 tabelspoonful of sugar;
1/2 wine glass of water or selters;
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint; dissolve well;
1/2 glass of shaved ice;
1 wine glass of brandy (Martell);

Stir up well with a spoon, strain it into a fancy bar glass, and ornament it with a little fruit in season, and serve. (See illustration, plate No. 9.)

And indeed, his instructions here are clear, the “Fancy Brandy Smash” is not served over ice.

However, going through the book a bit further, I discovered he also had a recipe for an “Old Style Whiskey Smash”.

Old Style Whiskey Smash.
(Use an extra large whiskey glass.)
1/4 tablespoonful of sugar;
1/2 wineglass of water;
3 or 4 sprigs of mint, dissolve well, in in order to get the essence of the mint;
Fill the glass with small pieces of ice;
1 wine glass of whiskey;
Put in fruit in season, mix well, place the strainer in the glass and serve.

So the “Fancy” version of the drink gets strained into another glass, while with the “Old Style” version of the drink, the guest is simply served the drink with a julep strainer in the glass!

Well, as a moderist, I will choose to make the “Fancy” version of the drink!

Fancy Brandy Smash.
(Use a large bar glass.)
generous 1/4 oz Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup;
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint; dissolve well;
1/2 glass of finely cracked ice;
2 oz brandy (Artez Folle Blanche Armagnac);

Stir up well with a spoon, strain it into a fancy bar glass, and ornament it with a little fruit in season, and serve.

Well, I have to say that does have a certain simple charm! Not only that, but you don’t have to contend with the ice when you swilling the drink. I could understand why this would be a more modern, let’s get down to drinking, kind of version of the drink.

However, if you order a “Whiskey Smash” today, the one you are most likely to be served has lemon in addition to the mint. This version of the drink was popularized by Dale DeGroff at the bars he ran in NY and in his book, “The Craft of the Cocktail”. According to Mr. DeGroff, he never really understood the appeal of the Julep, so he started adding muddled lemon slices in with the mint in the Smash, sort of crossing the Smash with the Fix.

DeGroff Whiskey Smash

2 lemon pieces
2 to 3 mint leaves
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 1/2 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 oz of water
Sprig of fresh mint

Muddle the lemon, mint leaves, water, and Simple Syrup in the bottle of a mixing glass. Add the bourbon and shake. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with the mint sprig.

Personally, I hate muddling fruit. Especially, since I’ve already got lemon juice, muddling fruit is just messy. Gets your sink full of cloggy fruit pulp. The mint is bad enough.

So how about this little solution?

Fixed Modern Brandy Smash

Peel 1/2 Lemon;
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar;
Splash Water;
2 oz Spirit of Choice, I used the Artez Folle Blanch Armagnac above.
Juice 1/2 Lemon;
1/2 teaspoon Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup;
3 or 4 leaves mint;
Mint Sprigs for garnish;

Muddle lemon peel and granulated sugar in a heavy glass until fragrant. Splash in some water and continue muddling until sugar is dissolved. Fill with finely cracked ice. In a mixing tin, combine lemon juice, brandy, mint leaves, and gum syrup. Shake with ice and strain into iced glass. Stir to combine, garnish with mint sprig and serve.

You get the aromatics from the peel in the drink without the bitterness of the pith. Not bad at all!

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

6 thoughts on “Smashes.

  1. I’m pretty pleased with the DeGroff Smash, but I’d love to try your Fixed Modern variant. That said, are you opting out on water entirely?

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