Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Brandy Smash Cocktail

The Brandy Smash Cocktail

The Mint Julep’s little brother

Long ago, in a century far away, the Brandy Smash was America’s most popular mixed drink. During the 1850s and 60s, drinkers flocked to this mint-infused charmer. But then (as so often happens with cocktails), it fell from favor.

Well, it’s about time for a revival, don’t you think?

A Brandy Smash is basically a shorter, less elaborate version of a Mint Julep. It’s easier to make than a julep, and (usually) contains less booze. And because it’s a smaller drink, it’s perfect for times when you want a refreshing tipple, but don’t have all afternoon to enjoy a long, slow sipper.

You don’t even need to use brandy in this drink if you don’t want to. Just substitute whiskey or gin—or almost any spirit that catches your fancy.

And the flavor? Smashing.


The Brandy Smash Cocktail

Recipe: The Brandy Smash Cocktail

In mid-19th century America, the Brandy Smash eclipsed even the Sherry Cobbler in popularity.

Back then, the word “cocktail” referred to a specific type of drink—one that was always made with bitters, and usually drunk in the morning (yes, really). A smash was a different class of drink entirely. Nowadays, of course, we use “cocktail” to mean just about any mixed drink.

So what was special about mixing a “smash”? It involved shaking mint with ice, which “smashes” the leaves. Early recipes for this drink probably required muddling mint and sugar together (the way we make a Mint Julep). But then the newfangled cocktail shaker came along (it was the instrument of choice for mixing the Sherry Cobbler). After that, it didn’t take bartenders long to realize they could skip muddling and just shake mint with ice and brandy. The friction from shaking tears mint leaves, smashing them up. That’s probably how the drink acquired its name.

For more history about the Brandy Smash, I recommend the book Imbibe! by cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich. My recipe is adapted from his.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 1½ to 2 ounces brandy or cognac (2 ounces is traditional; may substitute another spirit of your choice—see Notes)
  • ~1 teaspoon homemade simple syrup (to taste; may substitute store-bought syrup or finely granulated sugar) 
  • 7 or so mint leaves (or just throw a sprig into the shaker; spearmint is ideal)
  • mint sprig and/or orange wedge or slice for garnish
Procedure
  1. Add the brandy and simple syrup to a shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Then add the mint and shake gently (you don’t want to bruise the mint—otherwise it can turn bitter) until the drink is well chilled (probably another 10 seconds or so).
  2. Strain the contents of the shaker into a rocks glass filled with ice cubes (or crushed ice—see Notes). Garnish with a mint sprig and/or an orange wedge or slice. Straws are optional for this drink, but I like them.
The Brandy Smash Cocktail

Notes
  • Wondrich says this drink has also been called a Smasher or a Smash-Up.
  • You can use either brandy or cognac for this drink. Cognac is nothing more than brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. (Brandy is what happens when you distill wine.) I tend to prefer the flavor profiles of cognac, so that’s what I often buy.
  • You don’t want to use expensive brandy or cognac for this cocktail—something in the range of $15 or a bit less should work fine. I usually use a VSOP like St. Remy or Raynal. If in doubt, ask the person at the liquor store—they’re usually very helpful.
  • Some people like to add a dash or two of Bénédictine liqueur to this drink (and I can attest that it’s a good addition). If you’d like to try this variation, just add the Bénédictine to the cocktail shaker in Step 1.
  • It’s probably more authentic to drink this cocktail over crushed ice rather than cubes (see Step 2). But I happen to prefer cubes.
  • Although brandy was the spirit of choice for mid-19th century imbibers of this drink, whiskey was a fairly common substitute.
  • Some drinkers substituted gin, though that was used less frequently. The gin used back then wouldn’t have been the London dry variety we know today. Instead, it would have been Holland (Jenever) gin, which originally was made by distilling malt wine (Jenever has a faint malt flavor).
  • Another variation on this recipe substitutes roposado tequila. I haven’t tried this version, but it sounds delish.
  • Drinkers traditionally garnished this cocktail with a mint sprig and/or an orange wedge or slice. But many also liked to festoon it with berries or other fresh fruit (as we did with the Sherry Cobbler).
  • Most 19th century drinkers wouldn’t have mixed fruit into the drink itself. But today, that’s a common variation. For an example, check out this Blackberry Smash recipe by Barb at Creative Culinary.
The Brandy Smash Cocktail

Smash Hit

“Mmmm,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, tasting her drink. “Refresh-mint.”

“Smashing color, too,” I said, holding up my glass.

“True enlighten-mint,” said Mrs K R, holding hers toward the window.

“Mint condition,” I said, taking a sip.

“These puns are becoming an embarrass-mint,” said Mrs K R. “Maybe we should declare a truce?”

“That might be a disappoint-mint to our readers,” I said.

“Well, my glass is empty,” said Mrs K R. “Maybe you should get off your puns and mix us another round.”

“Sure thing,” I said. “But two is probably enough. We don’t want to get smashed.”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Simple Syrup
Minut Julep
Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
Gin Rickey
Planter's Punch
Mojito Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

114 comments:

~ Nee ~ said...

Good Morning John . what a delightful smashing drink , pass me one please ;- D . Hubby aunt (78) like E&J Brandy , I told her I was going to make her one , she said only if it comes with a man ;-D , gonna make her one and make me two . Thanks so much for sharing :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Nee, this definitely is a smashing drink. ;-) And I'd be delighted to pass you one! Thanks for the comment.

Vicki Bensinger said...

This looks like something I could dive right into. Refreshing and delicious! You always have great drinks to temp is with.

Dottie said...

Dear John,
Wow! You learn something every day! What a beautifully smashing drink! I had no idea about mixing the ice with the mint, and that is why they call it Brandy Smash. Very interesting info on this drink and all of your notes. I really am not a drinker, but this one may be the one that I try...Very refreshing with the mint...Plus I see that Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is enjoying her smashing drink....Thanks for sharing your expertise. Have a wonderful rest of the week.
Dottie :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi VIcki, sorry about that temptation thing. ;-) This one is worth trying -- really nice. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Dottie, this really is a fun drink, and has such great flavor. Smashing, you might say. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Dan from Platter Talk said...

Beautifully written and beautifully poured! This cocktail looks particularly appealing, especially in mid-July. Thanks for sharing this one!

Pat said...

This does look beautiful, John. It wouldn't take many for me and I would be smashed :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Dan, this is such a fun drink! Fun history, better flavor. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Pat, two of these will do it for me. Well, maybe three, but then it's lampshade time! Thanks for the comment.

Sippity Sup said...

You and Mrs. KR's conversations are pure entertain-mint. GREG

~~louise~~ said...

Hi John,
Love the banter between you and the Mrs:) I'm also pretty fond of this drink too. The lady next door stopped over last night to ask me if I wanted any mint. (I don't grow it because it takes over the entire garden) Thank goodness I said yes! The only Brandy I have on hand is Paul Masson Amber but I really, really want to try this drink tonight so I'm going to go with that.

Thank you so much for sharing, John...It's been a lot less humid today and actually going to get "chilly" tonight. I think this drink will be just perfect to "warm" up the evening:)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Greg,I'm in agree-mint. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Louise, Paul Masson (or really any brandy with a name -- as opposed to big black letters spelling out Brandy on a white label -- will be fine). We've had coolish weather the last couple of days (even down into the 50s one night!) but it'll be hot again soon enough. Thanks for the comment.

Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes said...

Love all the "mint" puns - so hilarious. Great looking drink!!

Denise Browning@From Brazil To You said...

I love everything about this... The explanation, the gorgeous glass, and of course, the great, great pics. Cheers to you, John!

Natalie G said...

I am not a huge brandy fan but I think I would like this thanks to all the refreshing mint in it!

Cheri Savory Spoon said...

HI John, great drink and history. Always look forward to so much "pun", between you and the Mrs. sorry could not help myself.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Ashley, we probably should have avoided those puns -- some are kinda lame -- but we gave in to temptation. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Denise, isn't this a pretty drink? Awfully tasty, too. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Natalie, the mint really gives this a nice little taste -- really good. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Cheri, it's so hard of us to resist pun! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

mjskit said...

This IS easier to make than a mint julep and the smaller size is nice. I love mint juleps but they are huge and after drinking just one, I'm sending Bobby out to get burgers. :) I'm not a big cognac or brandy fan, so thanks for saying that bourbon whiskey could be substituted. I have a Costco size bottle of Maker's Mark in the cabinet and a huge pot of mint. :) I know what I'm trying this weekend! Thanks John!

GiGi Eats Celebrities said...

I'll just have the simple syrup please! LOL!

Sue/the view from great island said...

I adore a great classic cocktail and a witty blogger!

Holly | Beyond kimchee said...

I love the story that goes behind the drink and the stunning shot of it. I had to stare at it for a few seconds to adore. Nice. I don't drink alchohol but this is tempting!

Julia | JuliasAlbum.com said...

Beautiful and very manly drink! Love the glass too - very classic - the old-fashioned steak houses would serve alcohol in those!

Liz Berg said...

I think this would be terrific with gin...as G&T's are such a summery drink and a minty gin drink would hit the spot, too!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi John,
It was delicious and oh so refreshing. Thank YOU!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Louise, glad you liked it! Now you may have to plant some mint. ;-)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi MJ, just think of it as a mini julep -- because that's really what it is. ;-) Bourbon really is great in this drink, and Maker's Mark would be wonderful. Enjoy! And thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi GiGi, with a garnish of mint, yes? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Sue, classic cocktails are the best, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Holly, I used to rarely drink cocktails, but got so interested in their stories that I started tasting them. Glad I did -- they're delish! Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Julia, those old-fashioned steak houses are something, aren't they? When I worked in NYC I'd sometimes have business dinners at some of them, and they were always fun. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Liz, gin and mint really work well together, don't they. I haven't made this drink with a London gin, but I should (I love gin!). Thanks for the comment.

Monet said...

My best friend has a beautiful mint plant that keeps on growing and growing. I'm sending her this recipe right away (as well as the recommendation to add you to her feedly!)

Thalia @ butter and brioche said...

Awesome recipe! definitely could kick back with a glass or two right about now! thanks!

Guru Uru said...

Ok I know that the whole brandy smash thing screams 'manly' but I need to try this drink because it looks so DELICIOUS! :P

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I'm really old but I don't recall this drink. :) I think I'd like this.

Zoe said...

Hi John,

This cocktail is interesting with a combination of warmness and refreshing taste... I wonder if this is for winter or summer or ... everyday :p

Zoe

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautiful cocktail! It's color and composition is fabulous.

Cheers,

Rosa

Sage Trifle said...

Another punny post with breath taking photography. Cheers, Rocquie

Abbe@This is How I Cook said...

Just don't smash that glass. I've always liked it! And though this looks smashing, I would have to try it with something else as I am not a cognac fan. However, i just discovered bourbon and am quite happy with it. It seems happy with me, too!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Monet, mint can become almost a weed -- a good weed! It really is invasive, though. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Thalia, this really is such a nice drink. If you like mint, that is. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Uru, it really is delicious! Definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Maureen, this drink predates even both of us. By quite a lot. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Zoe, I drink it mainly in the summer, because that's when I have fresh mint growing, but it's really an everyday drink. Brandy is nice in cold weather, so this would definitely appeal in the winter, too. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Rosa, isn't it pretty? I love how cocktails look! Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Rocquie, can't have too many puns in life! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Abbe, this is quite a good drink with bourbon -- really a mini Mint Julep! And that glass is over 100 years old, so I definitely don't want to smash that! Thanks for the comment.

Pam said...

Sounds tasty! Love the glass you used.

Laura Dembowski said...

This is the perfect drink for me! Love brandy and mint and how easy it is to make!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Pam, it really is tasty. And that's a fun glass, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Laura, brandy has such nice flavor, doesn't it? And mint really works well with it. Thanks for the comment.

Juliana said...

Simple and yet delicious looking cocktail...the good thing is that I have lots of mint in my backyard...
Hope you are having a great week John :D

Barb | Creative Culinary said...

You know I love a good smash; I have a tendency to add fruit but this one is simplicity at it's finest. Great shots too!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Juliana, this really is a great use for mint. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Barb, I know you love a good smash! And the blackberry one you did last week looks great. Thanks for the comment.

Carolyn Jung said...

You have outdone yourself this time. The color is mesmerizing. It's like pure sunshine in a glass. How can I resist? :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Carolyn, I have to say, I love color in cocktails! And no, you shouldn't resist. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Karen Harris said...

Such a pretty drink and as a matter of fact, I have brandy and mint and I was looking for an excuse to do a little morning drinking. Thanks for this!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Karen, have fun tomorrow morning! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Bams Kitchen said...

You never disappoint as here we are on a Friday afternoon and a you have a new deliciously smashingly fun cocktail on the menu for tonight. I like the idea of smashing instead of muddling as your drink is so clear and looks so refreshing. Thanks for the fun post and have a super weekend. Take Care, BAM

Spicie Foodie said...

I love that there's always history with your cocktail recipes, John. This is a new one to me and definitely one to try. Thanks for sharing!

Gourmet Getaways said...

Nice pun exchanges once again, courtesy of Mr and Mrs KR! Lol! Thanks for the recipe, John! Will try this pretty soon ;).

Julie
Gourmet Getaways

Caroline Taylor said...

Such a vibrant drink, great way to use Brandy too.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Bam, enjoy your Friday! (Saturday, now, I guess.) The smashing really is a lot easier than the muddling. Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Nancy, it's the history behind the drinks that I find the most interesting. Not that drinking them isn't fun, too! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Julie, one of our weaknesses is we do like puns. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Caroline, isn't this a great looking drink? And brandy can be so nice in cocktails! Thanks for the comment.

kristy @ the wicked noodle said...

I also prefer cognac and can't wait to try this cocktail!

Carol at Wild Goose Tea said...

I would be one adding a bit of Benedictine. I love that silky smooth booze. I also love the glass you featured the drink in. All your cocktails look good to me. Just getting into cocktails. Was consumed by wine and some after dinner liquors. Expanding my horizons now. And you are helping me------sort of like a 12 step program to get into alcohol. Lol

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Kristy, this really is a delightful drink. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Carol, we drink more wine than we do cocktails, but love to sample many different cocktails (hard to tell, huh?). Have fun experimenting! And thanks for the comment.

Amira said...

Looks graet and as usual great pictures

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Amira, it's really a super nice drink! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

liz @ Strayed Table said...

Mrs Riff is right, the colour is smashing. Looks pretty darn good, I would prefer crushed ice instead of cubes. None the less add this to the must drink list.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Liz, crushed ice is quite nice in this drink, and I'd be happy to have it that way, too. This is such a fun drink -- worth trying sometime. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

this is a real smashing good cocktail....such enchanting flavors too...thanks, we tried out that delicious white bean and tuna salad you posted...substituted tuna with quinoa as suggested and it turned out superb,thanks so much for sharing :-)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Kumar, glad you enjoyed the salad! This is a fun drink, too -- pretty, and loads of good flavor. Thanks for the comment.

lisa is cooking said...

I didn't know the mint julep had a little brother! I loved learning about the origin of the smash. Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to try one now!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Lisa, you don't see smashes that much these days, although it's a dandy drink. Thanks for the comment.

Dawn Yucuis said...

Beautiful presentation. This is one my hubby would love.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Dawn, this is a great drink -- I hope your hubby enjoys it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Beth said...

I knew I'd love it the mo-mint I saw it. What a great achieve-mint!

(These puns are getting out of hand. I may need to go into treat-mint.)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Beth, :-) Fun comment! Thanks.

Kristi @ MSFK said...

MMM I love mint in cocktails!

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Wow John, it has smashing color and light! Such a gorgeous photo of the cocktail. I didn't know cocktail has different meaning back then. It's always fun to learn the history and how words (or anything) evolve throughout the time. :)

Madonna/aka/Ms Lemon of Make Mine Lemon said...

I usually just cook with liquor, but I have brandy and mint, I think I must try this.

Madonna
MakeMineLemon

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Kristi, mint is great in so many things, isn't it? It's wonderful in drinks! Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Nami, isn't this pretty? Awfully tasty, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Madonna, this really is a nice drink -- really lovely flavor, IMO. Thanks for the comment.

Eva Taylor said...

I'm loving the moodiness of the dark background, the lighting of the golden liquor in the crystal is gorgeous...and the bright green embellish-mint is lovely too (sorry, couldn't resist).
I bet that glass has some good weight to it, it's lovely.
Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Eva, those dark backgrounds are fun, aren't they? And I agree the embellish-mint is lovely! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Raymund said...

You never fail to amaze me with your cocktail photos, look how pretty that is

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Raymund, thanks for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.

Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl said...

Totally smashing! What a stunner!

sprinklesandsauce said...

great cocktail suggestion! we have some brandy at home and really gotta try this!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Pamela, isn't this a nice drink? Very tasty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Sarah, this is definitely worth a try! Lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.

Terra said...

Easier to make than a mint juliep and contains brandy? Count me in!!! Love this recipe, and my hubby would love it too! Cheers, Take care, Terra

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Terra, this is sooo easy and sooo tasty! Enjoy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen said...

This looks like something my husband would love. Thanks for sharing, John!

MyMansBelly said...

Simply Smashing! And a gorgeous photo to boot. :)

Amy (Savory Moments) said...

First, I really like your glass! Second, this drink sounds pretty perfect to me! I only started drinking brandy last Christmas (my brother requested a real fruit cake, so I had a partial bottle from that). Now I love it!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Peachy, it's a great drink! Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Pamela, it is smashing, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Amy, since you like brandy, you'll love this drink! Really tasty. Thanks for the comment.

Alice // Hip Foodie Mom said...

I seriously need more cocktails in my cooking repertoire . . pinned and looks so good!!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Alice, cocktails are so much fun! I love their flavor, but their history even more. Thanks for the comment.

Helene Dsouza said...

I would like to try it once with brandy and once with cognac. I wonder what it would taste like with honey bee. John your cocktail is tempting right now!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Helene, sorry about that temptation thing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.