Like the Cobbler, the Sling, the Cocktail, the Toddy, the Smash is another style of old drink. And a fantastic one, which has a lot of variations.
Embury would have you believe that the Smash is a short Julep, which consists of mint, sugar, and any type of spirit (Embury 272). And this is true. The Julep is seemingly a drink with a longer staying power, compared to the Smash. The Smash is never or rarely served with a straw, since the aim is to drink and imbibe the damn thing rather quickly, making it serve as a bracer (Wondrich 158).
Wondrich writes about how the Smash is perhaps the most popular drink of its’ time, especially after it appeared in the mid 1840s, remaining in the hands of imbibers well past the civil war: the height of the popularity of the smash was in the 1850s, and the smash was a symbol of drinks throughout the country (Wondrich 159). Yet, the Smash fell out of favor, and become associated once more with its’ other half, the Julep.
Named after the act of smashing the mint, which would be bruised while shaken, the drink has a strong fresh characteristic, and a light yet bold flavor depending on the spirit used. It truly is a way for someone who likes their spirits to appreciate the drink in a refreshing summertime manner. Personally, nothing can beat the taste of a peaty scotch within a smash: the juxtaposition of talc, malt, smoke, herbal flavors and freshness from the mint is absolutely a wonder.
Served with a a fancy garnish quite often, this drink makes less sense when you have the garnish, seeing as how it is meant to be consumed quickly. In which case, Embury’s note that the smash can be served with no decorations other than a cherry and a small sprig of mint in a sour glass makes quite a bit of sense (Embury 272). And the garnish was ommitted by Jerry Thomas (at least in the case of the berries). Yet, Jerry Thomas did accentuate the drink with appropriate citrus garnish: orange in the case of brandy (Thomas 31). The touch gives a nice visual component, but also provides a nice element that breaks up the overall flavor and the aroma of the drink.
The use of fruit such as lemon, orange or lime does aid the taste of the cocktail, and so if you look at the recipes for some modern smashes, like the Grand Marnier Smash, there is the inclusion of the sour component to help balance the overall drink (lemon in the case of the Grand Marnier Smash). Regardless, the mint still should be the principle flavor, especially since that is the base ingredient that defines this drink. Mint should be shaken in the drink or muddled into it if it is stirred, and garnished with fresh mint to finish off the aromatics.
2 ounces of spirit
1 teaspoon white sugar, or 1/3rd ounce simple syrup
4 or 5 mint leaves
Combine the ingredients in a shaker tin with crushed ice. Shake, straining the mixture into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with another sprig of mint, and optionally some fruit.
Craddock, Henry. 1999. The Savoy Cocktail Book. Originally published 1930. London: Pavilion Books.
Embury, David A. 2009. The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Originally published 1948. New York: Mud Puddle Books, Inc.
Thomas, Jerry. 1887. Bartender’s Guide. Reprint of original. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald.
Wondrich, David. 2007. Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. New York: Penguin Group.