What cocktail to offer on Independence Day, the day some of the greatest political minds signed the document outlining the most secure and fair methods of governance, formally and with uncommon eloquence and foresight, and obliterating all ties with Great Britain?
I suggest a smash, connoting demolition and also one of our country's oldest cocktails, featuring one of our oldest spirits. I do so after consulting Brad Thomas Parsons, whose book Bitters I continue to admire. Responding to my email, he wrote:
"Cocktails were born in America, but for that question, I guess I'm thinking less of an iconic drink like an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan or a Martini, and instead, as it's the Fourth of July, thinking about a spirit with heritage—something the American colonists might be drinking. Something like applejack or apple brandy. Laird & Company is America's first commercial distillery, founded in Scobeyville, New Jersey, in 1780." He went on to describe an Applejack Sazerac created by a friend and concluded, "That being said, I also think something with Kentucky-made bourbon. A Mint Julep or a Whiskey Smash (bourbon, lemon, sugar, mint) would be pretty all-American, and refreshing to boot."
And that being said, it was only natural for me to turn the bourbon smash into one our forefathers might have enjoyed. (It's fine to substitute any American whiskey if you have no apple brandy; it's also acceptable to substitute French Calvados, as the French were our great allies in our war for independence.)
Happy Fourth of July, with hopes that our current and future leaders will have the intelligence and will to sustain our Founding Fathers' vision.
(Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.)
The Applejack Smash
- 10 mint leaves
- 3 ounces Laird Applejack (or any American whiskey or Calvados)
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ½ to 1 ounce simple syrup (the former if you like your cocktail tart)
- 1 tart American cherry, soaked in simple syrup for a week (or a generic maraschino, as pictured here since the squirrels and chipmunks got all our cherries this year, damn them; I recommend this for appearance and symbolic sake only—I don't recommend eating it)
- Smash the mint in a shaker (or for a very minty drink, using a mortar and pestle), then add the Applejack. Ideally, let the mint steep for 30 minutes or so.
- Add the lemon juice and simple syrup to the shaker. Fill the shaker with ice, and shake hard to further smash to the mint.
- Pour over ice in a rocks glass (through a strainer if you have one). Garnish with a cherry.
If you liked this post on the Applejack Smash, check out these other links:
- My past cocktail posts on the Rye Whiskey Smash, Ludwig, and Basil Gimlet.
- The New York Times shares the history of the Laird family.
- Learn about Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy.
- Here is a list of other smash cocktails recipes from the Boston Globe.
© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.