Having a smashing time!

October 4, 2012

The ‘Smash’ is a cocktail predecessor based on mint – a “Julep on a small plan” as is often said.

This post is the last in a short trilogy on mint, following Mojitos and Juleps.

Before the ‘Cocktail‘ (in the official sense of the word – spirit, bitters, sugar and water), there was the ‘Sling’ – spirit, sugar and water (or ice). The addition of mint, simply makes it a ‘Smash’, and according to David Wondrich, this was a pretty popular drink in the late 19th century. Another way of looking at it is as a cocktail (like an Old-Fashioned) with mint instead of bitters as the spice.

The Smash I’d heard reference to the most was the Gin Smash. I had an old recipe from somewhere and tried it.

Gin Smash

2 oz gin

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp water

3 sprigs of mint

Muddle the mint in sugar and water, add gin, and shake. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass of ice with some finely chopped mint, and garnish with an extra sprig.

Well, it was OK. It should have been better. With some thought, here was what I came up with.

Why shake that mint? Julep and Mojito experts don’t shake it. Everyone says it bruises and tastes unpleasant. Why would it be better shaken in a Smash? But even Wondrich says he likes to shake, and a Smash (SMASH!!!) sounds like it should be shaken.

It needs to be sweeter. Maybe it’s just me, but I think mint requires a little more sugar. I found my Juleps much better that way,

Tanqueray, with its brash Juniper-forward profile, might not have been the best choice for gin. Dutch Genever would have been the stuff in the original Smashes, and failing that something milder is called for.

I tried again, three more times, with Genever (Bokme), the sweeter Old Tom Gin (Haymans) and the milder Plymouth. I came up with a plan for the mint. Here’s what I got:

Gin Smash (Take 2)

2 oz gin or genever

2 tsp sugar

1 tb  water

about a dozen mint leaves

1 mint sprig

Briefly stir sugar in water to almost dissolve it in your serving glass. Muddle mint leaves lightly in sugar. Fill a mixing glass or shaker tin with ice. Strain mint and sugar over this and discard the leaves. Add gin. Shake. Fill serving glass with crushed ice. Strain the drink over it. Garnish with a good mint sprig (giving it a slap to release smell first) and serve with a short straw which forces the nose to go right down in the mint.

Well that was much better!

The trick with the glasses is just a way of getting the mint out and throwing it away after the muddling flavours the water. It’s just a light touch, and a lot of the mint ‘taste’ comes from the garnish sprig in the nose (thanks, Ben, for suggesting discarding). I really think this method works. You could also just fish the mint out with a barspoon. Oh, and rubbing the rim of the glass and the end of the straw with mint works too.

Genever was great. I love that spirit. Pity you can’t get it in Taiwan. It’s very different from normal gin, though.

The Old Tom and the Plymouth were quite similar (you can buy Plymouth Gin at 9City), and much better than the Tanqueray in this drink (although I think the latter would taste much better with this new method). It’s a really nice drink. I don’t think a slice of lemon would go amiss. You could also try something like Benedictine, Curacao, or another liqueur as the sweetening agent too (just leave out the sugar, or muddle mint straight into liqueur). The possibilities are endless.

The next one I was tried was a Brandy Smash, with this recipe from Eric Felten:

Brandy Smash

1 1/2 oz brandy

1/4 oz Benedictine

3 or 4 mint leaves

1 tsp sugar

In a  short glass, gently crush the mint in the sugar with a splash of water. Fill the glass with well-crushed ice, add the brandy and Benedictine, and stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

I used Courvoisier Exclusif VSOP for the brandy. I think it mixes very well, and I like it more and more.

This is another good Smash. With the Benedictine, it’s a little like a mild and minty B & B. Great stuff.
Conclusions

Smashes are good. They’re a good alternative to other simple drinks. I tried the Gin Smash again before I finished this post, with Tanqueray and Martin Miller. They were fine, but the Plymouth (or Old Tom) is the way to go, and Genever, if you can get it. I’ll also definitely try the Brandy one again as we get into the cold weather that usually sees me drinking B & B’s. That said, of all the mint drinks, the Mojito is still my favourite.

Part 1: Mojitos

Part 2: Mint Juleps

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4 Responses to “Having a smashing time!”


  1. […] Part 3: Smashes Share this:MoreLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this. […]


  2. […] Part 2: Smashes Share this:MoreLike this:Like2 bloggers like this. […]

  3. putneyfarm Says:

    We are fans of brandy and whiskey versions…the benedictine is a nice add…

    • theboolion Says:

      Great. I didn’t really include Whiskey, as it was more or less covered by Juleps, but yeah, Bene is good. I’m sure you could try St Germaine and other favourite sweeteners with similarly interesting results.


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