The brandy smash is among the oldest mixed drinks. It is such a classic that it was created around the 1830s and saw its heyday during the Civil War. An excellent alternative to drinking brandy alone, this timeless drink is incredibly simple.
Like the old-fashioned, "smash" cocktails are short drinks that gently enhance a shot of liquor with complementary flavors. In the case of the brandy smash, mint and sugar are mixed with a muddler, and the brandy drink is served on the rocks. It's actually a lot like the mint julep (which likely inspired the smash drinks) and can be made with brandy, whiskey, or gin.
With any cocktail that's been around for nearly 200 years, you should expect that there are several ways to make it. Modern recipes tend to include soda (though not so much to make a brandy and soda), while older recipes skip that ingredient or use a splash of water. You can use sugar or simple syrup, add as much mint as you like, or bring lemons into the mix. The drink can also be built in the glass or shaken then strained.
Gather the ingredients.
In an old-fashioned glass, muddle the mint, sugar, and club soda until the sugar is dissolved.
Fill the glass with ice cubes or cracked ice. Add the brandy and stir well.
Garnish with an orange slice, cherry, and mint. Serve and enjoy.
- Be sure to mix the sugar with the soda until it is completely dissolved. You can make superfine sugar from granulated sugar; it is recommended because the finer grains dissolve better.
- To avoid that entirely, use a 1:1 simple syrup instead; 1/4 ounce (1 1/2 teaspoons) is a good place to start. Some recipes use up to 3/4 ounce, though that can be too sweet for most brandies.
- Gomme syrup is often used in alcohol-heavy cocktails like this, and 1 teaspoon will give the brandy smash a silky texture.
"Professor" Jerry Thomas is the most revered bartender of the 19th century. His 1862 book, "How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion," was the world's first bartending guide and remains a valuable resource for making classic cocktails.
- To make Thomas' brandy smash, dissolve 1 teaspoon of superfine sugar into 2 teaspoons of water in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 ounces of brandy and 2 sprigs of mint and shake well. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with cracked ice and garnish with mint or an orange slice and seasonal berries.
- Like Thomas' whiskey smash, a few pieces of lemon can really brighten up the flavor with the right brandy. Two dashes of orange bitters is a nice addition to this version.
- The gin smash was an equally popular drink in the 1800s. It was typically made with genever (commonly called Holland gin at the time), and the substitution works in either the brandy or whiskey smash recipes.
What's the Best Liquor for a Smash Cocktail?
Though nearly any brandy works well, many drinkers prefer cognac in the brandy smash. Whether you choose brandy, rye whiskey, bourbon, or gin, the liquor forms most of the drink, so make it a good one. This is a drink that deserves a brand you enjoy drinking straight because there is little else in the drink to disguise a poor choice.
How Strong Is the Brandy Smash?
The brandy is the main ingredient of the brandy smash, and the finished drink is just slightly below the liquor's bottling strength. If you pour an 80-proof brandy, expect the alcohol content to fall somewhere around 23 percent ABV (46 proof).