Here’s another drink from the brandy seminar I attended in 2007, presented by Chad Solomon and Christy Pope and sponsored by Hennessey Cognac.
This is an historical cocktail, when things started to get a bit more complex in the mixing glass. The category of drinks is called the Smash, referred to by the Father of All Bartenders, “Professor” Jerry Thomas, as “a julep on a small plan.” It had some similar ingredients to the well-loved julep — spirits, sugar and mint — but rather than being slowly sipped through a straw in a silver cup packed with shaved ice, the smash was strained off the ice, more bracing and meant to be consumed quickly.
The classic Smash was usually made with brandy, whiskey or gin (most likely Dutch gin rather than the London dry we’re used to today), shaken with fine cracked or shaved ice and a couple of nice sprigs of mint, then served over fresh cracked/shaved ice and garnished with mint and orange slices. In more recent years, Dale DeGroff adapted the Smash to more modern tastes with the addition of a bit of citrus to it, which makes it a much more pleasant drink. The addition of about half a medium lemon, cut into quarters and muddled in the mixing glass with the mint, does more than add a bit of juice — this way, you get lemon oil from the peel, and that makes a huge flavor difference.
Sounds simple, but you’ll be surprised how wonderful this drink is, and while you’re at it you’re drinking history.
The Brandy Smash
2 ounces Hennessy VS Cognac brandy.
3/4 ounce simple syrup.
1/2 lemon, quartered.
Small handful of mint.
Place the lemon in the mixing glass, top with the mint and muddle until you’ve released the lemon oil from the peel, along with some juice. Don’t pulverize the lemon and especially not the mint.
Add the simple syrup and brandy, fill with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass, either up or on the rocks, and garnish with another sprig of mint.
Bartender’s hint: before you garnish, place the mint in the palm of your hand and give it good “spank;” i.e., clap your hands with the mint in your palm. Sure, it’s a bit showy (yet impressive-looking), and it serves to help release the aroma of the mint, which’ll go right up your schnozz as you’re sipping. Mmmmmmm.