Lesson Two: Recipes

Chapter One: Smashes and the Magic of Mint, aka the Brandy Smash

Supporting Cast:
Mint Julep

The Brandy Smash has two virtues: it’s historic, and it’s easy to assemble. The Cosmo of the 1850s (without the pinkness), it used to drive fast-living types into ecstasies of satisfied anticipation. But so did a lot of things that we of the twenty-first century would no sooner throw a lip over than ingest a button cactus boiled in old dry-cleaning solution. Luckily, this invigorating compound happens to be perfectly delicious (make that three virtues, then). Plus, unlike its unruly first cousin, the Mint Julep, it’s strong enough to brace you up without being so strong as to knock you down (four).

There are two ways to make a Brandy Smash: the old way and the older way. In this case, oldest isn’t best. No, rather than merely pressing the mint against the glass with the back of your bar spoon and then stirring everything, you want to employ that marvel of late-nineteenth-century technology, the cocktail shaker. But when you do employ it, let it off easy—gently’s the word here, or the mint will bruise and make the drink bitter, and you’ll be picking bits of it out of your teeth.

2 ounces cognac
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 sprig mint (preferably spearmint)

Shake gently but thoroughly and pour unstrained into a small glass tumbler; add straw.

Substitutions: For the brandy, gin and bourbon or rye whiskey are traditional; tequila isn’t, but it’s good. For the sugar, 1 teaspoon rich simple syrup (if you’re using tequila, you might want to replace the sugar with a squirt of agave syrup, available in health-food stores).

And now four more drinks with fresh mint.

Mint Julep

“There are many tracks through the desert,” as the Arab proverb says, and there are many ways to assemble a Julep. The oldest purely American drink on the books, whether it was made with imported cognac and Jamaica rum, old rye whiskey, or “the juice of the corn” (as it always is now), the Mint Julep did more to solace the existence of the young nation than any other drink. By the Civil War, it was already in decline, done in by its combination of labor-intensiveness and paralyzing strength. Is it worth making anyway? Absolutely. Just tell your assistant to hold all calls. You’ll be in no shape to answer them.

2 teaspoons demerara or turbinado sugar
5 to 7 sprigs mint
4 ounces cognac or bourbon
1 1/2 teaspoons dark, Jamaican-style rum

Place a silver (or silver-plated) Julep cup or, if necessary, an 8-ounce glass tumbler in the refrigerator. While that’s cooling, in a separate glass muddle the sugar in 1 ounce cold water. Crush or shave at least 8 ounces of ice into a third container and return it to the freezer. After the Julep cup has cooled for 30 to 45 minutes, use a towel or glove to remove it from the refrigerator. (The idea is not to get your naked hand against the sides of the tumbler, which inhibits it from frosting.) Always avoiding touching the tumbler, place 2 or 3 (washed) sprigs of the mint in it, add the sugar and water mix, and gently crush the mint with a spoon. Discard the mint.

Fill the tumbler about 2/3 of the way with the crushed ice. Pour in the cognac and stir 4 or 5 times, never touching the sides of the tumbler. Add more ice to restore the ice level (which will have subsided) and stir vigorously until the tumbler frosts. This should take 10 to 20 seconds (it’s not an exact science, and if you can’t raise a frost after 20 seconds, quit). Float the rum on top of the drink, pouring it very gently over the back of a spoon; insert 3 or 4 fresh sprigs of mint so that the leaves protrude from the ice like a bouquet; add a straw or two, preferably trimmed to a length that keeps the drinker’s nose right above the mint; and have at it. If making this with bourbon, omit the rum.


This popular Cuban formula is perfectly adapted to Cuban weather conditions, which therefore makes it one of mankind’s essential tools for combating the wave of climactic hideousness that sweeps across the more humid parts of the Northern Hemisphere every June. It should not be too sweet, or it loses its cooling effect.

1/2 lime
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
8 to 10 mint leaves
2 ounces white Cuban-style rum
Chilled fizz water

Squeeze the lime into a highball glass and drop in the shell. Add the sugar and muddle (see the Old-Fashioned); then add the mint leaves and lightly muddle them as well. Add enough cracked or crushed ice to fill the glass 2/3 of the way. Pour in the rum, stir, and fill with fizz water.


Ryan Demonstrates How To Make a Mojito.

Take 5-6 leaves of mint and put at the bottom of tall cocktail glass
Lightly press mint leaves with muddler and set aside
In mixing glass;
Add 5-6 leaves of mint
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Simple syrup
1.5 oz Light Rum
Add ice and shake hard
Strain through tea strainer into cocktail glass
Add ice and fill with club soda
Garnish with mint sprigs

Mint Julep

Ryan Demonstrates How To Make a Mint Julep.

Mint Julep
*Remember, students must have proper utensils for practical
exercises. This exercise requires a silver julep cup.
Put about a dozen mint leaves into bottom of cup, ensuring you don’t
get any of the stems
1/2 oz simple syrup
Lightly muddle
Fill cup with finely crushed ice
2 oz Bourbon
Add more crushed ice on top
Add another 1/2 oz of simply syrup
Garnish with mint sprigs

Reproduced from “Killer Cocktails” by David Wondrich.