Why The Whiskey Smash is Called The Whiskey Smash

Whiskey Smash

The 1887 edition of The Bar-Tenders Guide by Jerry Thomas saw the official introduction of the Whiskey Smash as a drink recipe. It was inspired as a more refreshing alternative to its cousin, the Mint Julep. Since the 1700s, bartenders and drinkers have been making juleps, as well as another drink, the Whiskey Sour. This is what prompted the introduction of the Whiskey Smash as something to be included in mixology publications. In order to make a quality Whiskey Smash cocktail, one needs a good muddler. This starts with the compression of a lemon wedge to release the juices from inside, plus the oil from the peel, creating an even richer taste when combined with sugar and whiskey. This combination, plus a few spearmint leaves, is what adds the cool minty flavor to this alcoholic beverage. The blend of citrus and mint flavored into the whiskey makes an ideal, refreshing drink, even for drinkers who admit they would never drink whiskey. Whether one is a fan of whiskey or not, the Whiskey Smash has proven to become a bartender’s favorite. When Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff began serving these cocktails at the Rainbow Room in New York City as of the late 1980s, it revived the popularity of this beverage. The alcohol base is placed inside a shaker that is added with the mashed muddle of lemon wedges and mint leaves, before it is concealed and shaken vigorously. In other words, the mixologist is literally smashing the ingredients together in order to make the Whiskey Smash. It’s even better when ice cubes are in the equation as this makes the drink that much more refreshing.

Jerry Thomas 1887 Whiskey Smash Recipe

The recipe Professor Jerry Thomas put into the 1887 edition of the Bar-Tenders Guide was very specific about which mint leaves to use. In his day, it was using five to eight leaves of spearmint that would first be placed into a shaker. The number of spearmint leaves used was subject to personal taste. How minty would you like your Whiskey Smash to be? Added to these leaves was a quarter of a lemon, cut into three wedges. Using a masher, or whatever utensil that can do the job, press down and mash the lemon and mint together. This is what starts your muddle, which is also referred to as the smashed base of your drink. Doing this breaks up the juice and the oil, which is what you need to get the full effect of that minty cool citrus flavor base. Once this is done, add an ounce of simple syrup, and two ounces of whiskey. Top this with a few ice cubes, then seal the shaker, so that you can shake your ingredients together as vigorously as possible.

What you’re doing here is literally smashing each ingredient into each other to create your Whiskey Smash. This is how the drink got its name to begin with. Once the Whiskey Smash has been officially smashed, pour the liquid through a strainer into a rock glass that has a few ice cubes in it. A rock glass is a shorter glass that is sized anywhere between six ounces to twelve ounces and has a thick bottom. Otherwise called lowballs or old-fashioned glasses, this is the most commonly used glass type for beverages like the Whiskey Smash. You could use other glass types if that’s your choice, but Jerry Thomas pointed out the rock glass in his recipe, which is the same mixologists of today tend to use. Once the Whiskey Smash cocktail is in the glass, there is the option to add a mint sprig to garnish it.

As for the simple syrup, all it really consists of is equal parts sugar to equal parts water. This is the staple ingredient used in all cocktail beverages that feature a measure of sweetness to all mixology creations. The beauty behind this recipe is if you want the mix to be sweeter, just add more sugar. If you find it too sweet, then use more water instead of sugar, but this will also make your syrup runnier. You can, of course, replace the regular white sugar with cane sugar. Demerara is one such variety of cane sugar and among the favorites used by mixologists who prefer to stay away from using processed sugars. Liquor.com has a recipe list of variations interested mixologists can use to experiment with different simple syrup recipes, especially if one wants to be a bit more adventurous with their own cocktail creations.

King Cocktail’s Whiskey Smash Recipe

If you want the exact detail of Dale DeGroff’s Whiskey Smash recipe, it calls for three lemon wedges, two ounces of bourbon, 3/4-ounce of simple syrup, and four mint leaves. The first step is to muddle the lemon wedges inside the shaker, which means these get smashed around first before adding the bourbon, mint leaves, simple syrup, and ice. When the time comes to pour the drink, double strain it into a rock glass that already has a pair of ice cubes in it. For garnish, slap a sprig of mint against the back of your hand first, then add it to your cocktail creation. What this does is release the oils from the mint and make it more aromatic. This was the secret behind the brilliance of DeGroff’s popular Whiskey Smash.

The Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey

Technically, bourbon is a specific type of whiskey. Otherwise known as American whiskey, this type of alcohol is quite different from the likes of Irish whiskey and Scotch whiskey. According to Jim Beam, the guidelines for a bourbon whiskey must be made in the United States. It also needs to have at least fifty-one percent of fermented mashed corn and cannot be distilled at more than 160 proof. In storage, it cannot be more than 125 proof. In a new, charred white barrel, the bourbon is to age for a minimum of two full years and must not contain any additives to enhance its color or flavor. Bourbon whiskey is known for its smooth notes of caramel, oak, and vanilla. If it’s wheat-based, it’s usually softer than the spicier rye varieties. As for the whiskeys from Ireland and Scotland, their product is made from distilled malted barley that will either come as a single malt or single grain scotch. This type of whiskey must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels before it can be distilled and bottled at an alcohol by volume content of at least forty percent.

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