The statement “everything old is new again” could certainly be applied to the whiskey smash. The drink is a throwback to old America mixed drinks made in the 19th century and featured in books like How to Make Mixed Drinks, or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion, written by Jerry Thomas and published first in 1862. Though many of these drinks have been replaced by popular modern alternatives, several are again becoming the “it” drinks of the 21st century, with the whiskey smash among them. Chef Bobby Flay, of the Food Network and the popular restaurant Bar Americain in New York City, delights in serving these old time drinks and has increased demand for whiskey smash know-how among bartenders.
The cocktail is similar to a mint julep. Its principle ingredients are sugar (Flay uses simple syrup), mint leaves, occasionally lemon slices, shaved ice and two ounces of whiskey or bourbon per “smash.” Lemon slices, mint, sugar and ice are muddled, or squished with a pestle before adding the generous amount of whiskey. Some bartenders also use a bit of soda water to top off the whiskey, creating a slightly lighter taste.
Other recipes for the whiskey smash skip the lemon juice completely, and merely use mint, sugar, ice and whiskey. Yet others offer brand name whiskey smashes, where the real importance is the type of alcohol used. It is argued that superior brands create a better cocktail, and bourbon or whiskey purists or experts may favor these types.
The “smash” in the drink can have two possible origins. With the high amount of whiskey, a few of these drinks will have you smashed in a matter of minutes. Go carefully and sip your whiskey smash, and make sure you’re using a designated driver, bus, subway or cab to take you home if you plan to indulge. Secondly, smash can refer to the muddling process of the drink, where ingredients are smashed together before the alcohol is added.
Recipes and variants on the whiskey smash abound on the Internet. You can even visit sites like YouTube, where bartenders have handy step-by-step visual guides for making the drink. If you plan to make the drink at home, you may want to use semi-tall or fat bar glasses, and complete your muddling process before guests arrive. Find freezer safe glasses that will allow you to chill your muddled mix, but don’t forget the glasses in the freezer. You can usually plan on placing the glasses in the freezer for about 15 minutes before guests arrive. Any longer and you may have a mess, rather than a smash on your hands.