Exploring Muddled Cocktails: Smashes, Juleps, and Mojitos

by
October 1, 2017

The cocktails we’re discussing today have one common theme: they require you to crush things–herbs and sometimes fruit succumb to the power of our muddler. While mojitos may be the most popular muddled drinks, you can’t forget about juleps and smashes. Speaking of which, you’re going to want to make a small investment in a muddler, which can be had for less than $15. They come in a variety of materials such as wood, plastic and stainless steel, but keep in mind that if you get a wood one, some fruit tends to stain.

You also want to be gentle when muddling herbs; the idea is to release their flavor and oils, not pulverize them into a paste. One other thing to consider is to invest in a lewis bag and a mallet for crushing ice. They come in very handy and are great therapeutic tools which release the tension of a long day.

Muddled Drinks

Mojito
We’re going to start with the king of muddled drinks these days–The Mojito. The Mojito has been around since the late 1930’s, but really picked up steam in the U.S. in the early aughts of this century when fresh juices came back into fashion in cocktails.

Mojito recipe
– 6-8 mint leaves (reserve one mint sprig for garnish)
– 1 tsp superfine sugar or ½ oz simple syrup
– 1 oz lime juice (save spent lime shell)
– 2 oz white rum (try Caña Brava Rum Blanca)
– Club soda

Build this in the glass you will be using, which can be a double Old Fashioned glass or a Collins glass. Muddle mint leaves, sugar and lime juice in the bottom of the glass. Add white rum, cracked or crushed ice, and spent lime shell in the glass. Top with club soda. Stir gently. Garnish with mint sprig. Serve with straw or stirring rod.

Muddled Drinks: MojitoMojito / Photo Credit: Chris Pople

Caipirinha
The next muddled cocktail we’ll tackle will be the Caipirinha. Made from cachaça [ka-SHA-sa], a fresh sugarcane spirit produced in Brazil, you can see the similarities with both mojito and the daiquiri. The Olympics in Rio have put this drink back on the radar so expect to see it back in bars and in Latin restaurants.

Caipirinha recipe
– Half a lime, quartered
– 1 tsp superfine sugar or ½ oz simple syrup
– 2 oz unaged cachaça (try Avuá Prata Cachaça)

In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle lime and sugar. Add cachaça. Top with crushed or cracked ice. Gently stir. Serve.

Muddled Drinks: CaipirinhaCaipirinha / Photo Credit: Wine Dharma

Juleps

A julep is a cocktail which incorporates a spirit, mint, and sugar. The most famous julep, the Mint Julep is a bourbon cocktail that really only gets press come Kentucky Derby time, but Juleps can also be made with brandy, rum, or other types of whiskey. They are refreshing drinks that deserves attention throughout the warm weather season.

Mint Julep recipe
– 8-10 mint leaves
– 1 tsp superfine sugar or ½ oz simple syrup
– 2 ½ oz bourbon (we prefer a high-proof bourbon like Baker’s Bourbon)
– Crushed ice

Place mint leaves in the bottom of the glass (either a silver mint julep cup or a double Old Fashioned glass). Add sugar and gently muddle. Add bourbon and crushed ice to glass. Stir gently to chill glass. Add more ice to mound on top. Add a couple of mint sprigs for garnish. Serve with a short straw or julep spoon straw.

Muddled Drinks: Mint JulepMint Julep / Photo Credit: Jeremy T. Hetzel

Brandy Julep recipe
As above, but substitute brandy for the bourbon such as Pierre Ferrand Original Formula 1840 Cognac.

Smashes

The smash cocktail uses spirit + sugar + herbs (usually mint) + ice with an option of adding fruit either smashed or as a garnish. You may also add a little seltzer or water and sometimes even sparkling wine. A smash is a wonderful way to incorporate seasonal fruits in your cocktails. We have a couple of smash recipes for you here, but below are some other suggestions to try. Feel free to substitute your sweetener where appropriate such as with honey or agave syrup.

– Peaches + bourbon + mint
– Strawberries + gin + thyme
– Cherries + rye + tarragon
– Raspberries + rum + basil
– Pineapple + tequila + sage
– Nectarines + whiskey + lemon verbena

Blackberry Mezcal Smash
– 2-3 large blackberries
– A few leaves of sage
– 1 tsp superfine sugar or ½ oz simple syrup
– 2 oz joven mezcal (try Montelobos Mezcal Joven)

Add blackberries, sage, and sugar to the bottom of your mixing glass and muddle gently. Add mezcal. Fill serving glass halfway with crushed or cracked ice and roll back and forth with contents of mixing glass. Pour completely into the serving glass and add more ice if necessary. Garnish with a few leaves of sage and serve.

Muddled Drinks: Blackberry SmashBlackberry Smash / Photo Credit: niXerKG

Whiskey Smash
– ½ lemon, quartered
– 6-8 mint leaves + 1 mint sprig (reserved for garnish)
– 1 tsp superfine sugar or ½ oz simple syrup
– 2 oz whiskey (try Powers Signature Release)

Place lemon, mint leaves, and sugar in the bottom of your mixing glass and muddle gently. Add whiskey. Place crushed ice into your serving glass (a double Old Fashioned glass), filled halfway. Pour contents of mixing glass into serving glass and “roll” your cocktail several times. Add more crushed ice to serving glass and gently stir. Add a mint sprig as garnish.

Muddled Drinks: Whiskey SmashWhiskey Smash / Photo Credit: Kevin O’Mara

A further note on smashes:

You may use lemons or limes with or instead of other fruit, but do make sure to muddle them and not just use their juice. I prefer to use a rolling method to mix my muddled drinks–that is to add ice to the mixing glass along with all other ingredients and “rolling” it to the glass you’re going to serve the drink in. You do this several times to mix the drink. This keeps the bits of fruit and ice in with the glass. You may choose to shake and strain the cocktail instead which keeps most of the fruit and herbs out of the drink. Then you would just garnish with the fruit. Your choice.

With muddled drinks, the key is to release the essence of the herbs gently into your drink. The flavors combine with the spirit and sugar to create a refreshing and satisfying drink. Enjoy mixing and matching…and most of all SMASHING!


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