When we lived in Berkeley a whiskey smash was our go-to drink. We tend to have whiskey and maple syrup on hand, and even though our apartment didn't have a yard, we had a back alley with a productive lemon tree and lots of mint.
We were sad to lose access to a lemon tree when we moved to Portland, but we sure gained a lot of mint. Within weeks of moving in, we went totally overboard planting too many varieties: Moroccan mint, pineapple mint, ginger mint, spearmint, Cuban mint, and Kentucky Colonel. Most importantly, I did not heed warnings to avoid planting all this mint directly in the ground. “Why would you not want a lot of mint?”, I reasoned. So, of course, it spread and strangled a precious pink spirea and some of our blueberry bushes! Our first outdoor project this year was to dig up every last bit of mint and move them to big containers. I still pull the occasional overlooked runner, but at least our other plants are happier. Crisis averted.
I recently saved two lemon seeds from a particularly juicy lemon and planted them in a pot. Our neighbors have a potted lemon tree that they keep inside in the winter and roll outdoors in the summer. It recently made its annual outdoor transition. When I pass by every day I try not to be jealous, but try to channel that energy into the hope our that one of our little seeds will grow.
Enough gardening gaffes and plans, let's talk smashes. There are certain elements that make a smash: booze, ice, herbs or fruit, sugar, and the optional splash of bubbles. I know some folks drink whiskey in winter and gin in summer, but we don’t always adhere to these rules. We love our whiskey and don't put it away when the days get longer and warmer, we make ice-cold mint juleps and whiskey smashes. When our mint starts taking off and the Chester blackberries arrive later in the summer, we reward our long days with smashes. We muddle mint or blackberries with sugar or maple syrup, toss in a little lemon juice and whiskey. It is refreshing and earthy. Perfect after a long hike or day spent in the garden.
Smashes taste best when consumed outdoors, preferably on a front stoop, a rocking chair on a porch, or on the grass in the backyard.
Here is the recipe for our whiskey smash with mint. Later in the summer, I will share our berry version.
Whiskey Smash - mint variation
For two cocktails:
4 ounces bourbon or rye, I like Eagle Rare bourbon or Michter's US no. 1 straight rye
1.5 - 2 ounces lemon juice
1.5 ounces maple syrup (feel free to use simple syrup instead)
10 - 12 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
a few dashes of aromatic bitters
Optional: a few splashes of soda/seltzer and/or brandied cherries
Muddle the mint with the maple syrup, using a muddler or a wooden spoon. Add the lemon juice, whiskey, and bitters. Shake well. Strain into ice filled highball glasses - sometimes we use crushed ice. Slap the garnish mint to release fragrance and flavor; place in glass. Add a few splashes of seltzer and/or a brandied cherry, if desired.