How to make a bourbon smash cocktail and its most popular fresh fruit variations.
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What is a Bourbon Smash Cocktail?
A smash cocktail is one with muddled lemon wedges and mint, sweetened by simple syrup. Variations exist that include other fresh fruit in addition to or instead of lemon.
A whiskey smash is arguably one of the most refreshing classic cocktails you could mix. It is always made with bourbon hence its other name – bourbon smash.
Classic Ingredients for Whiskey Smash
Bourbon. As the old saying goes all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Ever since the cocktail first started being made circa 1850 (perhaps even earlier), straight bourbon was the whiskey of choice.
Mint. Fresh mint leaves and a mint sprig for garnish are at the core of whiskey smash – after all the cocktail is a variation of the mint julep. Choose spearmint as the most refreshing option.
Simple syrup. A basic sugar water is the original sweetener for the drink.
Lemon wedges. The all important addition to the mint julep that makes this dirnk a bourbon smash. The lemon juice lends refreshing acidity while the zest amplifies the olfactory perceptions and hence the overall flavor.
Ice. It really is essential – not just to chill the cocktail but also to gradually unleash the bourbon. Note that club soda water is not called for in bourbon smash. It would only dilute the perfectly balanced cocktail base.
TIP: To make simple syrup – combine 1 cup refined white sugar (or demerara sugar) and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil and stir a few times until sugar is completely absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool down completely.
What Type of Bourbon to Choose?
In general go for a smoother, less spicy and less smoky bourbon.
Bartenders always advise to not make a mint julep with a straight rye whiskey and the notion of too much rye spice carries over to bourbon smash. When you look at the mash you want a bourbon with higher corn and lower rye and malt. The higher the corn in the grain bill, the more suitable the bourbon for a whiskey smash.
In this example, Woodword Reserve is a great option. As a sipper it is very sweet and soft on the palate with just a bit of lingering spice underlying the caramel notes. As a whiskey smash component it blends perfectly with the rest of the cocktail.
What Type of Ice to Use in Bourbon Smash?
Crushed ice is the traditional choice. If your refrigerator does not make crushed ice you can pulse a few cubes in a blender or place them in a plastic bag and smash them with a meat mallet.
Modern bourbon smash versions are sometimes prepared with the trendy large ice balls or cubes.
Both of the above choices offer the benefit of slightly slower melting than regular sized ice cubes.
How to Make Bourbon Smash
You will need:
- a cocktail shaker
- a muddler (or use the top of a long handled wooden spoon)
- a jigger with a capacity of 2 oz on the larger end or a standard shot measuring cup with markings
- a mesh strainer (if not muddling the mint leaves the built-in strainer of a standard shaker will do)
- old fashioned/rocks glass
To make one whiskey smash cocktail follow the steps shown above and below:
- Cut a lemon into eight wedges. Place four in a shaker and muddle them really well to release not only the juices but also the essential oils of the citrus.
- Add the mint leaves and the simple syrup, followed by the bourbon. Add a few regular ice cubes, place the shaker lid and shake vigourously for a few seconds.
- Fill an old fashioned glass with crushed ice or a large single cube of ice. Pour the bourbon smash through a strainer and then garnish with a sprig of mint.
Tips for Mixing a Bourbon Smash
These are a few points to consider.
- The occasional lemon seed that slipped into the shaker is OK but do take care to not muddle several of them as they can introduce too much bitterness.
- The mint leaves get sufficiently bruised by the ice cubes in the cocktail shaker to become fragrant. However if you prefer a strongly mint flavored drink muddle them along with the lemon wedges, the way you would for a mojito.
- Just before you garnish the cocktail firmly slap the sprig of mint on the back of your hand to release its essential oils and make it more aromatic.
Variations of the Classic Bourbon Smash Recipe
The smash cocktail format is so refreshing that versions using fresh fruit and alternative sweeteners have developed. Some of the most popular ones are listed below.
1. Blackberry Bourbon Smash
Fresh blackberries are added to the classic version, to taste. They are muddled along with the lemon wedges.
Alternatively, blackberry preserve can be used in which case it is wise to lower the quantity of simple syrup or not use it all.
2. Peach Bourbon Smash
You can omit the lemon wedges and simple syrup and simply mudde very ripe peach slices.
Canned peach slices could work as well as the liquid in which they come. If you choose this scenario muddle a bit of lemon If the peaches are not ripe enough to release plentiful juice do use lemon and simple syrup to balance out the cocktail.
3. Maple Bourbon Smash
Using natural sweeteners such as honey or agave syrup is a common practice in cocktail making. In this case all you have to do is substitute the simple syrup with maple syrup. Otherwise prepare the cocktail as described.
Try it with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey which is made just like a straight bourbon but has undergone the additional step of filtration through a layer of maple charcoal before barreled. This purification known as Lincoln County Process is thought to mellow the bourbon and allow more confident flavors of vanilla and caramel to emerge.
4. Cherry Bourbon Smash
Either muddle fresh, pitted cherries alongside the lemon or use about a tablespoon of cherry preserve and reduce the simple syrup to taste.
5. Blueberry Bourbon Smash
The classic partnership between lemons and blueberries is in full swing here. Muddle a small handfull of blueberries (wild are even more flavorful) together with the lemon.
If using blueberry preserve (to taste) also adjust the quantity of simple syrup (to taste).
6. Raspberry Bourbon Smash
Muddle fresh raspberries along with the lemon wedges and prepare the cocktail as usual.
For a creative twist you can try this raspberry whiskey smash version with raspberry sour ale.
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- 1/2 medium lemon, quartered
- 5-6 fresh mint leaves
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces bourbon
- mint sprig for garnish
- In a shaker muddle the lemon wedge quarters to release the juice and essential oils.
- Add the mint leaves, simple syrup and bourbon. Add a few ice cubes, close the lid of the shaker and shake vigorously to chill and bruise the mint leaves.*
- Fill an old fashioned glass with crushed ice or a large single cube of ice. Pour the bourbon smash through a mesh strainer. Garnish with the sprig of mint.
You will also need:
- cocktail shaker
- muddler (or use the top end of a wooden spoon)
- jigger or other measuring tool such as a standard shot glass
- mesh strainer (or use the in-built strainer of the shaker, but double strain)
- crushed ice (this classic cocktail is traditionally served that way) or a large ice block/sphere (for a trendy presentation)
*During shaking the mint leaves get sufficiently bruised by the ice cubes to become fragrant. However if you prefer a strongly mint flavored drink muddle them along with the lemon wedges.
To make blackberry bourbon smash muddle a few fresh blackberries along with the lemon wedges and proceed with the recipe. For other popular whiskey smash variations consult the body of the post.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 216Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 23mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 6gSugar: 12gProtein: 3g