Gin Basil Smash is a modern reimagining of the classic cocktail category, the Smash. It's made with Gin, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup and Basil…lots of Basil. This modern classic was created in 2008 by Jörg Meyer, a bartender and co-owner of Le Lion in Hamburg, Germany.
The drink appeared on Le Lion’s menu the same year that the bar won Best New Bar at the Spirited Awards (part of Tales of the Cocktail). The drink is well known in several countries throughout Europe, as well as Hong Kong, and China (Shanghai), but it didn’t gain the same traction in the US.
It was based on a category of drinks that was popular in the US throughout the 1800’s, known as the Smash. A Smash was a template for 19th century bartenders to plug a spirit into. Brandy, whiskey and gin (Dutch Gin, Genever) were the popular spirits to use in a Smash. The drink was a spirit, muddled mint, sugar and ice stirred in a mixing glass, then strain into another glass and garnished with fruit—sometimes berries, but usually citrus.
This category was very similar to the Julep, and it’s heyday was the 1850’s. However, by the 1990’s, it—along with most of the rest of our collective knowledge of cocktails—was all but forgotten. Near the dawn of the new millennium, Dale Degroff, New York bartender and godfather to many a great mixologist, started some low rumblings in the cocktail world. He was using fresh juices and house-made syrups at a time where if it didn’t come out of a soda gun, most people didn’t understand it.
Degroff made a twist on the 19th century Whiskey Smash using muddled lemon juice. This made his version a sort of hybrid between a Whiskey Sour and a Mint Julep. Meyer, who had been fascinated with all of the developments in the cocktail world that were coming out of New York at the time, visited some bars, including The Pegu Club, where he encountered Degroff’s Whiskey Smash.
When Meyer got back to Hamburg, he was putting together a summer menu and used Degroff’s Smash as a jumping off point. He reworked the Whiskey Smash into the Gin Basil Smash and it was an instant hit. If you want to read more about this drink, I’d recommend checking out Robert Simonson’s book, A Proper Drink. He really digs into the history of this and other recent cocktail classics.
The drink is exciting, not only for the balanced flavor, but also the bright green color. Just as part of the appeal of the Negroni is its color, so is this drink, only the Gin Basil Smash is a lot more approachable.
Feel free to use your favorite gin in this drink. It will certainly have an impact on the flavor, but any way you slice it, you’ll end up with a great drink. The real key to this drink is using a lot of basil. It may seem like you’re going over board at first, but you really want to load up the shaker to the point that it seems to be overflowing with basil. Then give it a good muddle, don’t crush it into pulp, but also don’t be shy about getting in there. Using a heap of basil is where the big basil flavor and bright green color come from. This drink is particularly good on a hot day, but then again, it’s good in any weather. Prost!
2 oz (60 ml) Gin
1 oz (30 ml) Lemon Juice
0.75 oz (20ml) Simple Syrup
Fistful of Basil Leaves, plus more for garnish
Muddle the basil leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add liquid ingredients. Shake with ice. Double strain over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass. Garnish with basil leaves.
Smoke and Mirrors (Instrumental Version) - Martin Carlberg
via Epidemic Sound
Featured in this Episode:
Monkey 47 Ginhttp://bit.ly/2MCUYuC
Read more about the history of this drink here:
A Proper Drink by Robert Simonsonhttps://amzn.to/2woIEEa
Imbibe! by David Wondrichhttp://amzn.to/2F4QQf9
Godinger Dublin Double Old Fashioned Glasshttp://amzn.to/1FT6LJU
Japanese Style Jigger - Gunmetal Blackhttps://amzn.to/2MWNFgC
Koriko Weighted Shaker Sethttps://amzn.to/2wv8jdw
Hawthorne Strainer- Gunmetal Blackhttps://amzn.to/2PHo89P
Fine Mesh Strainerhttps://amzn.to/2BWZKhl
Citrus Juicer (Lemon)http://amzn.to/2m2NC2V