There are dozens of great drinks in the whiskey cocktail canon, from boozy stirred classics like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan to shaken examples like the Whiskey Sour. But it’s hard to think of a drink more refreshing than the Whiskey Smash, a fruity 19th-century cousin to the Mint Julep.
The Whiskey Smash made its recipe-book debut in the 1887 edition of “The Bartenders Guide” by Jerry Thomas, though variations of this fruit-and-whiskey concoction were likely made for decades prior to this inclusion. After all, bartenders and drinkers had been making juleps since the 1700s, and the citrusy Whiskey Sour was already in rotation when the Whiskey Smash came onto the scene.
A good smash requires a good muddler. You want to compress the lemon wedges to release not only their juices, but also the oils in the peel, which creates a richer taste when combined with the whiskey and sugar. Adding a few fresh mint leaves to the shaker (Mr. Thomas specifically calls for spearmint) lends cooling minty notes.
Legendary bartender Dale DeGroff, aka King Cocktail, began serving Whiskey Smashes at the Rainbow Room in New York when he was behind the bar during the late 1980s and 1990s, which helped to popularize and reintroduce this classic to modern drinkers. He made his version with bourbon, muddled lemon wedges and mint. Most recipes call for bourbon, but rye and even Canadian whiskies also create a fine drink.
DeGroff calls the citrus-and-mint combination the perfect cocktail for those who say they’ll never drink whiskey. Serve one to whiskey lovers and novices alike—they’ll both be charmed by this tasty, easygoing cocktail.
Click Play to See This Whiskey Smash Come Together
3 lemon wedges
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce simple syrup
4 mint leaves
Garnish: mint sprig
Muddle the lemon wedges in a shaker.
Add bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves and ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with a mint sprig.
Mint Sprig Garnish
Firmly slap the mint sprig on the back of your hand before garnishing; this releases the oils to make the mint more aromatic.