Let’s Make it a Smashing Summer

By Ian Wickman   |   July 12, 2022
The Strawberry Basil Tipsy Lemonade is a summer smash

This summer it’s time to take advantage of one of the easiest, most refreshing cocktails you can find. Endlessly versatile, and easy to adjust to your tastes, a smash is a cocktail that will make everyone happy. Best of all, they are dead simple to make. Read on to see how to make your summer a smashing success! 

The Concept

A smash is not a specific cocktail, but rather a category of cocktails. The idea is so simple and seasonal, you combine a base spirit, fresh fruit, and herbs (often mint) with a little sugar. Muddle them together and voilà a smash is born. The fun comes in the details and endless flavor combinations you can choose. So, without further ado, let’s get to the pulp of this exquisite summer sip.

The Details

The original concept dates roughly from the mid-1800s along with the mint julep. There are no hard and fast rules for a smash and thus you may see different recipes executing a smash differently. Do you need to muddle the fruit or just garnish with it? Use mint or another herb? Should you go with classic whiskey or choose your favorite spirit? These are all decisions in making your new summer favorite. Don’t worry if this sounds like too many choices, I have some great tips below to help you through the process.

Given the loose definition of what exactly a smash is, you still need to remember that we’re trying to create a balanced cocktail. Keeping this in mind we lean on common ratios of spirit, bitter/sour, sweet, etc. from classic cocktail templates to come up with new combinations. You can create a smash that is like an Old Fashioned with whiskey, simple syrup, your choice of fruit and herbs, and a dash of bitters: Try one with fresh peach, rosemary, and cinnamon bitters. A sour smash includes a base spirit, citrus juice, sweetener, fruit, and herbs: Think gin, lemon juice, fresh plums, honey simple syrup, and fresh thyme. Another classic option is to lengthen the smash with soda water, ginger beer, or tonic: How about a strawberry jalapeño mint julep. With so many options on the table, you could make a new smash every week this summer. So, where do we start?

My strategy for figuring out what kind of smash to make is to stroll through the Farmers Market and find whatever fruit is at its peak season. Next, I think about what type of cocktail I am trying to make. Whether it is strong and spirit-forward to have before dinner like an Old Fashioned, or I want to sip something lighter all afternoon like a mint julep or mojito. Once I know what kind of cocktail to aim for, it is much easier to decide which spirit will go best with the template and the fruit. Finally, I try and choose an herb that will bring the fruit and the base spirit together to create one of those classic flavor pairings where the whole ends up more than the sum of the parts.

After going through these decisions, simply use the cocktail template ratio as a base, add the fresh fruit and herbs, muddle them all together, and taste. Then adjust as necessary. With super sweet fruit it might mean using a little less simple syrup, maybe you need to add more herbs to amp up the flavor, or a dash of bitters to round everything out. The result is a refreshing tipple that brings all the best of summer produce into your cocktail glass. Time to check out what is in season and start smashing!

The Cocktail Inspiration

This cocktail came about after we received a container of glorious local organic strawberries from Frecker Farms in our farm box. I wanted something a little lighter, that I could drink in the afternoon, and would appeal to a group of friends we were having over for a BBQ. Nothing too fancy; I went with a sour template. I had a new vodka to try so that was an easy choice. We also happen to have loads of basil in our garden and strawberry and basil make such a good pair. The result smashed into what I like to call tipsy lemonade. Loads of strawberry, basil, and lemon in a fruity, tart-sweet, package, a perfect afternoon sipper. The only danger with this one is it’s a little too easy to drink!

Strawberry Basil Tipsy Lemonade

2 oz vodka
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (if you want it sweeter, you can add a bit more, I like it on the tart side)
2 medium-sized ripe strawberries (roughly 1 large strawberry, or 3 small ones, the riper the better)
3 large basil leaves (more if they are smaller)


Add all the ingredients to a shaking tin and muddle thoroughly. Add ice and shake until chilled and diluted, about 10 – 15 seconds. Double strain into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with a basil leaf or small sprig and a slice of strawberry.  


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