Negroni Week has come and gone, but the need for cocktails continues! So I’m going to post one new drink each week. First up, the Basil Smash, a great cocktail for summer drinking.
The style of drink known as the smash dates back to the 1830s, offering a slight variation on the julep. Its name comes from the way the drink’s leafy ingredients—often mint (as a julep) but in in this case basil—is smashed when shaken with ice.
According to Wondrich in Imbibe!, the smash peaked in popularity in the 1850s when it was the preferred drink of young men across the country.
Although its popularity has waned quite a bit since then, it’s still a refreshing summertime drink that’s easy to make. Here’s how to make a Basil Smash for yourself:
Basil Smash Ingredients
- 2 oz. Gin
- 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
- 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
- 10 (give or take) Basil Leaves
The original recipe calls for Hendricks Gin. I just so happened to have a bottle of this on the shelf, so that’s what I used. But any gin will work just fine.
How to Mix a Basil Smash
Because the Basil Smash contains citrus, this is a shaken drink. Add the basil leaves to a shaker tin and muddle. This means smush them with a big stick. I’ve tried a number of different muddlers, but I keep coming back to the Bad Ass Muddler from Cocktail Kingdom.
You can probably make the Basil Smash without muddling the basil leaves, but I’ve found this extra step helps to better release the basil flavor.
After muddling, add the remaining ingredients to the tin, add ice, and shake for 15 to 20 seconds or until the metal tins get very cold. Double strain into an Old Fashioned glass over blocks of ice (my preference) or crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of basil.
Drinks shaken with leafy materials are often double strained with both the Hawthorne strainer and a fine mesh conical strainer. This keeps all the mashed vegetable matter out of the final cocktail.
Normally, when a cocktail is served over crushed ice, you only need to give it a “short shake.” That simply means you don’t need to shake it as long as a drink that’s served up because the drink gets diluted as the crushed ice melts. But I’ve found that the longer you shake a Basil Smash, the more the basil gets smashed, which makes the final result more colorful.
To combat the threat of rapid dilution, simply drink it quickly.
A super fine mesh and conical shape make this the perfect device to double-strain all your smashes.