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11.23.10 by  

Get Smashed Sean Kenyon-Style

Nothing excessive about it: Pack a mixing glass full of fresh fruit, spirits, herbs and muddle, and you’ll get the ever-stylish smash cocktail. It’s an experience you want to remember in the morning.

Sean Kenyon, bar manager at the Squeaky Bean in Denver, mixes up brilliant pairings of fruit and spirits with his take on smash cocktails.

served raw: there seem to be two camps in the smash cocktail world: one that says bourbon must be the base spirit vs. the other which says any spirit can be used … what’s your take?
Sean Kenyon: I’m an “any spirit” kind of person. A smash is a style, and the original smashes were probably made with rye and a lot of times cognac, which was one of the first aged spirits they were drinking back in the 1800s.

Mix and match spirits and fruit to create your own “smashing” cocktail combinations.

this summer we came across many bourbon smashes … can you talk about the components in a bourbon-fruit smash and why they work so well?
Many different fruits work, raspberries and blackberries … berry fruits to me are the best. A blackberry plus an aged spirit work well together: The rich, tart fruits with the wood tones in an aged spirit work really well. Smashes also work with rye or bourbon. I’ll also use an herb to offset the flavors and marry them all together. Blackberries are my favorite.

do you leave the blackberry seeds floating in the glass, or strain them?
Smashes are specifically unstrained — everything is still in the glass. It would be weird to strain the glass because the drink was originally created as unstrained. However, I do make an tequila-based smash with orange and ginger. That one gets strained because of the ginger.

what sweetening agents do you use in smashes?
I usually use a little simple syrup, but it depends on the drink. If I use a citrus fruit or something with peel in the smash, I’d use granulated sugar so it grinds against the rind and brings out the oils. In most smashes with berries, the simple syrup emulsifies a little better.

what are some other off-the-radar fruits that can be made into smashes?
Right now, I’ve got a fall cranberry cinnamon smash that uses a little cinnamon tincture, cranberries and lemon peel with Old Fitzgerald Bourbon. Cranberries last pretty long into the fall so you can use them almost all the way into winter.

I’m using pears now too, but they are winding down season-wise. I try not to use any fruits that aren’t in season but I’ll make jams, compotes and preserves out of the fruits when they are in season to use in the winter.

let’s talk about the garnish, and how to build another level of flavor and aroma into a smash cocktail.
Garnishes give you aromatics, especially with fresh mint or herbs. Smack and release oils before you put into your cocktail. When you taste, you taste with eyes, nose then palate. As you approach the cocktail, a great garnish will have good aromatics. A nice good-looking mint sprig on a smash will marry the components of the glass from visual to taste.

what’s the greatest bourbon for crafting a smash, or does it change by base fruit?
It really changes by the fruit used. It goes both ways. You want your whiskey to complement your fruit, because your fruit is the star of the smash. You have to pick the right fruit for the bourbon. Old Fitzgerald works beautifully with cranberries, which I found out after I had tried Rittenhouse Rye, Bulleit and Jim Beam. Knob Creek for my blackberry sage smash, it’s so good.

how could our readers take their own smash cocktails to the next level?
Finding flavor combinations that work outside of the smash first: Find a fruit and a spice and get them together then pick the spirit based on that marriage. Get the fruit element nailed down first and then nail the spirit to that.

is there specific glassware for serving a smash?
It should be an old fashioned glass. I’ve been served smashes in cocktail glasses or martini glasses, but it’s got to have crushed ice and be in an old fashioned glass.

Blackberry Sage Smash

  • 2 ounces Knob Creek Bourbon
  • 3 blackberries
  • 4 medium sage leaves
  • ½ ounce 1:1 simple syrup
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  1. Muddle blackberries with lemon juice and simple syrup in a mixing glass.
  2. Tear sage and lightly press. Add ice and Knob Creek. Shake.
  3. Double strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a blackberry wrapped with a sage leaf.

El Caballo Oscuro

  • 2 ounces Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila
  • 2 half wheels of orange
  • 1 quarter size ¼-inch thick slice of ginger
  • ½ ounce 1:1 simple syrup
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
  1. Muddle oranges and ginger with lemon juice and simple syrup in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice, bitters and tequila. Shake.
  3. Double strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a disc of orange peel.

The Fort Courage Smash

  • 2 ounces Old Fitzgerald Bonded Bourbon
  • 1 slice of lemon peel (2 inches x ½ inch)
  • 4 cranberries
  • 3 drops of tincture of cinnamon (extract will do, adjust for taste)
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  1. Muddle cranberries, lemon peel, simple syrup and cinnamon in an old fashioned glass.
  2. Add Old Fitzgerald and ice. Stir only to blend.
  3. Garnish with cranberry and lemon peel.