The Key To The Perfect Whiskey Smash Is The Muddle

A whiskey smash with mint next to a muddler
A whiskey smash with mint next to a muddler - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Whiskey's smokiness from malt, vanilla undertones from aging in oak casks, and robust flavor owing to its high alcohol content have made it a go-to choice for crafting cocktails. There are countless fantastic drink recipes that use whiskey as a base, such as the classic whiskey sour, the Manhattan, and the whiskey smash. The whiskey smash, in particular, not only has an intriguing origin story but also offers delightful flavors.

This cocktail first appeared in the 1887 edition of "The Bartenders Guide" by Jerry Thomas during the 19th century. Initially, it was seen as a variation of the mint julep, another beloved whiskey-based cocktail made with Kentucky bourbon, simple syrup, and mint. The classic whiskey smash includes all three of these ingredients, but it sets itself apart by adding muddled -- or crushed -- lemon wedges. This unique twist on the traditional recipe is what puts the "smash" in the cocktail's name. Muddling plays a crucial role in crafting a good whiskey smash.

When you muddle the lemon wedges, you not only release their juices but also extract the aromatic oils from their peels. Combining these citrusy flavors and aromatics with the smoky whiskey and the sweetness from the simple syrup creates a richer and more vibrant taste than you would get by simply adding a splash of lemon juice or grated lemon zest separately. The citrusy notes complement the freshness and cooling sensation of the mint leaves beautifully, explaining why this recipe has become a global cocktail bar staple today!

Read more: The 25 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

How To Muddle Your Lemon Wedges Like A Pro

Bartender using a cocktail muddler
Bartender using a cocktail muddler - Maksym Fesenko/Shutterstock

Muddling is not limited to just the whiskey smash. It's a crucial technique for making various smash-type cocktails like the blackberry sage vodka smash and the bourbon & peach smash. To get started, you'll need the right tool: a quality cocktail muddler, which looks and works like a mini food mortar. With this tool, the process of muddling lemon wedges for a whiskey smash is deceptively simple.

Start by placing fresh lemon wedges in a cocktail shaker, then press them with the muddler until all of the aromatic essential oils and juices are extracted and pooled at the bottom. There's a catch, though: You must be very careful not to over-muddle. Over-muddling happens when you use too much force and smash the lemons into bits. When muddling lemons, you'll want to only extract juice from the flesh and the oils from the colorful outer part of the skin (known as the zest). You don't want to disturb the white-ish inner part, called the rind, which is known for its bitterness.

If you're too heavy-handed, the bitterness will seep into the extract, causing your whiskey smash to taste rather medicinal. The trick is to use as little force as possible as you press down and slightly twist the muddler. Don't take the "smash" name too seriously and mash up the fruit. Rather, aim to press lightly and gently coax the essences out. And don't limit yourself to just lemons, either! Feel free to muddle in berries or other fruits to put a twist on the standard version of the cocktail, like this summertime peach whiskey smash.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.