Classic Whiskey Smash

Whiskey Smash cocktail recipe

The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen 

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
406 Calories
2g Fat
84g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 406
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 16mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 84g 30%
Dietary Fiber 20g 70%
Total Sugars 35g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 374mg 1,872%
Calcium 184mg 14%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 1025mg 22%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The whiskey smash is a classic cocktail with a bright flavor. The recipe comes from "Professor" Jerry Thomas' 1887 book, "Bar-Tenders Guide," though drinkers likely enjoyed it before his time. Even after so many years, it remains a fantastic drink and an excellent option for drinkers who are new to whiskey.

Like the famous mint julep (which predates this drink), the whiskey smash showcases that refreshing combination of bourbon and mint. This drink is also sweetened, and adding lemon gives it a citrus spin that's perfect for your favorite bourbon. It comes together very quickly, and you can tweak it as you see fit to match a particular whiskey.

"The Whiskey Smash and I do not get along for one very simple reason. It takes longer to make than it takes to enjoy. It is, by all accounts, a delicious and memorable cocktail. When you make, one just be prepared to make at least two more." —Sean Johnson

Whiskey Smash Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Whiskey smash cocktail recipe ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. In a cocktail shaker, add the mint and lemon.

    Mint and lemon in a cocktail shaker
    The Spruce 
  3. Muddle thoroughly to release the juices and oils.

    Muddling the mint and lemon in a cocktail shaker
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  4. Add simple syrup, whiskey, and fill the shaker with ice.

    Simple syrup, whiskey, and ice added to the shaker
     The Spruce
  5. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds.

    Shaking the whiskey smash cocktail
     The Spruce
  6. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

    Straining the whiskey smash cocktail
     The Spruce
  7. Garnish with a mint sprig. Serve and enjoy.

    Whiskey Smash cocktail with a mint sprig garnish
     The Spruce

Tips

  • If you don't have a muddler, smash the ingredients with the back of a spoon or the handle of a wooden spoon.
  • In the original recipe, 1 teaspoon of sugar was dissolved in 2 teaspoons of water, creating an in-the-glass simple syrup. If bartenders of the day used a liquid sweetener, it most likely would have been gomme syrup. Any of these options will work.
  • Rinse fresh mint before using it; it's easier to do this while it's still on the stem.
  • To ensure a mint-free drink, fine-strain the cocktail: Pour through your shaker's regular strainer into a fine-mesh strainer held over the glass.

Recipe Variations

  • Though the recipe calls for bourbon, other styles of whiskey will work just fine in the whiskey smash. If you prefer a robust rye or a smooth Canadian, feel free to pour one of those instead. It's all a matter of personal preference. The drink will take on a different character with each whiskey you pour.
  • In a pinch, orange would be a preferred choice over lime if those are the only citrus options you have. In that case, the drink becomes more of a minty old-fashioned.

What Is a Smash Cocktail?

"Smash" cocktails use a muddler to press the juices and oils out of fresh ingredients and mix the flavors together before adding the liquor. While any muddled cocktail qualifies, the classic smash drinks feature mint. Along with this whiskey smash, the brandy smash and gin smash (made with genever) were equally popular in the 1800s. Those two typically skip the lemon and use mint alone. Other spirits work in the smash recipes as well: Try it with rum for a mojito-like drink or vodka.

What's the Best Mint for Cocktails?

Thomas specifies spearmint in his whiskey smash recipe. It is the most common variety of mint available and often the type that's simply labeled "mint." Any mint will work, and some of the newer hybrids like pineapple and chocolate mints can make a very interesting smash as well. The 1887 recipe calls for "3 to 4 young sprigs of mint," and that can be a lot for such a short drink. Yet, mint does not come in standard sizes, so adjust the quantity as you see fit. Dried mint is OK to use as well, and some drinkers say they prefer its flavor over the fresh herb. Experiment and see what you think. 

How Strong Is the Whiskey Smash?

There is not much added to the whiskey in this drink, so it doesn't dip far below the whiskey's bottling strength. If your whiskey is 80 proof, then the average whiskey smash would be around 23 percent ABV (46 proof).