The official cocktail of summer 2009...is the Whiskey Smash. Among America's most ancient of mixed drinks, the Whiskey Smash offers up the democratic refreshment our foremothers and forefathers yearned for in the days before air-conditioning.
Back in the 40s, 50s, 60s--and here I mean the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s--the Smash, according to David Wondrich in Imbibe, was one of the most popular concoctions in the land. And like so many antebellum drinks (including the Sazerac), the Smash (or Smasher or even Smash-Up) was first made with brandy. Later on, rye was more often joined to the refreshing combination of mint and lemon wedges for this summertime pick-me-up. The whiskey variant--according to A New Dictionary of Americanisms; being a glossary of words supposed to be peculiar to the United States and the Dominion of Canada (1875)--was known in some circles as a "whiskey skin" (though this more often referred to a warm version of this drink made with Scotch or Irish whiskey, there was some overlap).
How common was this drink (and its many variants) in the nineteenth century? As late as 1900, a fixture at New York City's horse race tracks was named "Brandy Smash."
Given our full-blown cocktail renaissance, this drink is regaining its popularity quickly as bartenders restore the full glory of our American heritage to the bar-going public. You might be able to find this at an upscale establishment with an excellent bartender near you (such as New York City's Pegu Club, Chicago's Violet Hour, or Boston's Drink). But, just in case, here's how to make your own, in a short glass:
1 oz simple syrup (sugar water)
1 oz lemon juice (fresh-squeezed preferred)
2 mint sprigs
2 to 2.5 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse or Wild Turkey preferred because the higher proof liquor cuts through the sweet citrus flavors more effectively).
Muddle the lemon juice, simple syrup, and one of the mint sprigs. Add the whiskey and fill the glass with crushed ice. Place the remaining sprig at the top of the glass in order to enjoy the aroma, which adds considerable depth to this drink.
Then sit back (preferably outside) in a lounge chair and enjoy.