The combination of lemon, mint, syrup, and bourbon is a classic. It’s also ripe for reinterpretation. Here are six excellent variations to try.
Your classic bourbon smash is as simple as its ingredients. Take half a lemon and some fresh mint leaves and muddle them — that is, smash them, if you want to use Hulk-like jargon in its name. Add an ounce of simple syrup, two ounces of bourbon, and shake it up in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Then pour it over some more crushed ice, and garnish it all with a sprig of mint.
Lemon? Mint? These are the things refreshment dreams are made of, and this classic cocktail, akin to a mint julep, is definitely one to enjoy during a late summertime porch session or at a backyard cookout.
It’s also ripe for reinterpretation. Any mixologist can tell you that you can always vary a recipe to suit your taste or mood. Feeling more sweet than sour? There are many more fruits out there than lemons. Also, your choice of whiskey can also add some preferred nuances to your customized cocktail. Here are six variations of the classic whiskey smash recipe to step up your refreshment game.
1. The Endless Summer Smash
“The history of the smash is a bit muddled, so I thought it would be fun to blend some classic and modern ideas,” says Eric “ET” Tecosky, brand Ambassador for Jack Daniel’s. “As long as it tastes good, we can always bend the rules a bit!” In addition to lemon, Tecosky’s rule-breaking variation of the whiskey smash adds in fresh watermelon for added sweetness and fragrance.
- 2–3 chunks of watermelon
- 3–5 mint leaves
- 1½oz. Jack Daniel’s Bonded
- 2 dashes Jack Daniel’s Cocktail Bitters
- ¾oz. fresh lemon juice,
- ½oz. simple syrup
- 1 watermelon slice
- Sea salt for garnish
Muddle watermelon, then add the mint, Jack Daniel’s Bonded, bitters, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake in a shaker, then fine strain it into a rocks glass. Garnish it with a watermelon slice and a pinch of sea salt.
2. The Tarragueur
Cocktail enthusiasts in Austin can tell you that the award-winning Roosevelt Room is one of the more distinguished places for libations in the heart of downtown. At the helm of the cocktail program is co-owner Justin Lavenue, who reinterprets a whiskey smash as his “tarragueur”—a Texas-take on the classic grapefruit-forward de Rigueur cocktail, using local ingredients. (If you’re not in Texas, your local ingredients will suffice.)
- ¼ Texas grapefruit,
- 6–10 Texas tarragon leaves
- 2oz. Texas high-proof bourbon
- ½oz. Texas honey syrup
- 1 dash of foam tincture (like Wonderfoam or Ms. Better's Bitters Miraculous Foamer),
- Tarragon sprig for garnish
Remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit, saving a 1” x 1” slice of peel. Muddle the grapefruit and tarragon leaves, then add them to a shaker tin with the bourbon, honey syrup, peel, and cubed ice. Shake for ten seconds, then double-strain it into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a sprig of tarragon — clipped to the rim with a clothespin if you want to truly evoke The Roosevelt Room vibe.
3. The Stillhouse Peach Tea Whisky Smash
For a twist of southern flavor, Denver-based bartender Stefan Carlson turns to a whiskey he’s a regional market specialist for, Stillhouse — specifically their Peach Tea Whiskey. Don’t let the outdoors-focused packaging of Stillhouse be a turnoff (it comes in a rectangular can) for this spirit is worthy of any bartender’s indoor stock, to sip straight or mix into cocktails.
“I love this recipe because the honey, mint, and lemon are all perfect compliments to the classic flavors of southern style peach tea in the whiskey. They combine perfectly for a truly refreshing cocktail that evokes a nostalgic summertime feeling,” Carlson says. “It’s a perfect cocktail for the patio or front porch.”
- 2oz. Stillhouse Peach Tea Whiskey
- ¾ honey syrup
- 1oz fresh lemon juice
- 4–6 mint leaves
- a mint sprig for garnish
If you don’t have honey syrup, combine equal parts (by weight) of water, sugar, and honey in a pot and bring to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool to room temperature.
In a shaker tin, combine the honey syrup with the Peach Tea Whiskey, lemon juice, and mint leaves. Shake with ice until chilled, then strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with the mint sprig.
4. The Strawberry Whiskey Smash
Master mixologist Johnny Swet is a longtime cocktail veteran who’s conjured up libations across New York City for decades. Now a founding partner of the JIMMY rooftop bar atop New York City’s Modernhaus Soho hotel, he serves up his rendition of the whiskey smash, which adds strawberries to the flavor profile.
- 2 whole strawberries
- ½ a lemon
- 4 mint leaves
- 2oz. bourbon
- 1oz. simple syrup
- Mint sprig and lemon wedge for garnish
Muddle the lemon, one of the strawberries, and the mint leaves. Add in the bourbon and simple syrup and shake. Strain it into a rocks glass full of ice, then garnish with a sprig of mint, a lemon wedge, and the other strawberry.
3. The Blackberry Bourbon Smash
Strawberries aren’t the only berry that can tweak the flavor profile of a whiskey smash. Enter the blackberry, and you have another sweet addition to your variation collection.
- 4–5 blackberries
- ½ a lemon
- 4–6 mint leaves
- 2oz. bourbon
- 1oz. simple syrup
- A mint sprig and a blackberry for garnish
Muddle the lemon, all but one blueberry, and the mint leaves. Add in the bourbon and simple syrup and shake. Strain it into a rocks glass full of ice, then garnish with a sprig of mint, and the spare blackberry.
6. The Welsh Whisky Smash
“With the original Whisky Smash calling for bourbon it made sense to use Penderyn Madeira as our whisky of choice for a Welsh twist on a classic cocktail. It’s aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira wine casks, which means the finishing notes of this whisky marry perfectly with the sweet, citrus taste of a classic Whisky Smash,” explains Laura Davies, General Manager of Penderyn Distillery. “It’s definitely my drink of choice on a long summer evening.”
- ½ lemon, cut into wedges
- 8 mint leaves
- 1tbsp. white sugar
- 2oz. Penderyn Madeira Whisky
- 1 cup crushed ice
- Mint sprig for garnish
Muddle the lemon, mint, and sugar together in a cocktail shaker, until the sugar has dissolved and you’ve extracted all the juice from the lemon wedges. Add the Welsh Whisky, cover, and shake for 30 seconds. Then pour into an Old-Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice, and garnish with the sprig of mint.
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