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When he's not busy running the cocktail program at New York City's Maialino, Erik Lombardo is giving us the rundown on all things spirits -- and showing us the best ways to drink them.
Today: You may not know it yet, but this is your favorite drink.
Autumn in New York has a stubborn way of defying the parameters set for its traditional weather patterns. While the word ‘fall’ may conjure images of rosy cheeks, apple picking and blustery days, the reality is more often a combination of beautifully crisp days interspersed with a plain of humid and muggy ones. When, like an unwanted house guest, summer refuses to take the hint -- when you find yourself wearing shorts and flip-flops in October -- consider the Smash.
The smash, according to cocktail great David Embury, is “essentially a julep on a small plan,” indicating that originally it was a pretty elementary combination of mint, sugar and spirit. In essence, rather than the slowly sipped julep, the smash was meant to be a quick quaffer.
Throughout the cocktail’s evolution the base recipe became augmented with citrus (more refreshment) and fruit. The type of fruit used can be changed throughout the year to fit the season, making the smash an incredibly versatile year-round drink. Add to that the fact that you can change the base spirit as well and you have, quite literally, everyone’s favorite drink.
More: Another drink that's sure to be a new favorite? This Apple Blow Fizz.
In the spring try gin with lavender and honey, in the summer try any spirit with fresh berries, and when peaches come around, a peach bourbon smash is so good it’s almost indecent. In the winter take advantage of amazing citrus like blood oranges and kumquats paired with a blend of spirit and Grand Marnier (1 1/2 ounces of whiskey or cognac with a 1/2 ounce of Grand Marnier), and in the fall, for those 5 or so magic weeks in the Northeast, indulge yourself in concord grape smash made with rum.
Pick a good funky light rum, something like Banks 5 Year is ideal, but aged rums can work as well. Remember the object is to showcase the fruit -- not mask it -- so no dark rums or anything too reminiscent of caramel or molasses. And as a general rule, avoid spiced rums like the plague.
2 ounces white rum
1/2 a lemon, cut into 4 cubes
3/4 ounces sugar syrup
4 to 6 mint leaves
4 to 6 concord grapes
Photos by James Ransom