The dark, burnt wood flavors that permeate your typical Bourbon don’t exactly pair well with the warm months of Summer. As a spirit that tends to burn from the inside out, Kentucky’s finest can quickly be forgotten in June and July when drinkers turn their attention to more refreshing libations to cool and sooth the sweatiness away. But over 100 years ago—long before the days of air conditioning—an intrepid bartender named Jerry Thomas pioneered a vibrant elixir which he aptly named the Whiskey Smash. Using sweet and fresh ingredients that typify this time of year, the drink has sustained a fervent following throughout the 20th century, becoming one of the preferred methods for disguising the pungent flavors of America’s favorite dark liquor.
With its unexpectedly yellow hue, a Smash done right doesn’t even look like Bourbon, let alone taste like it. Best of all it’s a cinch to make this oldie but goodie at home. You just need some fresh mint, white sugar and a good whiskey (what other kinds are there?). Put four sprigs of young mint into the bottom of a rocks glass, add a teaspoon of white sugar and two teaspoons of water, and then mash the mint to release its unmistakable herbaceousness. Add two ounces of whiskey and plop in a few chunks of shaved ice. Garnish the finished cocktail with a few more sprigs of mint and enjoy a recipe that’s been unchanged for 150 years.
But if you’re the type that likes to tinker with perfection, you can substitute sugar with simple syrup, add a few dashes of bitters, and a couple pieces of lemon for even more intense zing. Simply muddle a half ounce of the syrup with the mint leaves, the bitters and two quarters of a pitted lemon into a shaker. Now add either Rye, bourbon or whiskey and shake it all up. Garnish with lemon zest and mint sprigs for Whiskey Supersmash. You’ll never want another lemonade again for the rest of the season.