You know when Labor Day rolls around, and everybody is falling all over themselves to celebrate the “unofficial” end of summer? But you’re not feeling it AT ALL, and you have no interest in celebrating the end of summer in an any capacity, even an unofficial one because, well, summer is your favorite season even if pretty much no one in your family feels the same way (what’s with them, anyway??). So you wander unenthusiastically through your cookbooks, looking for something that will maybe bolster your spirits but definitely reinforce your sense of denial about this whole end-of-summer travesty. And you stumble upon the Whiskey Smash in Morgan Murphy‘s most recent book, a tasty road trip through the south, with plenty of recipes for southern staples like corn pone and butter beans and pimiento cheese; but also some who-knew? recipes like falafel (of course the first one I tried) and crumpets (southern England??). But you trust Morgan Murphy because he wrote Bourbon & Bacon, and how can you not trust someone who wrote such a book? And there are so many things to like about the Whiskey Smash: It’s cold and lemony and minty and bourbony. But the best thing about it is that you have all the ingredients on hand.
So you give it a shake and do all the requisite Labor Day grilling. And the cocktail is incredibly tasty, and the day doesn’t seem so very bad after all. But you’re still in denial and not quite willing to let summer get away so easily. And the next thing you know, Halloween is creeping up on you. But the weather’s still pretty darn spectacular; and the Whiskey Smash has become your go-to drink. And your family and friends are clamoring for the recipe because even when they think they’re not real bourbon fans, they do love this cocktail. And sometimes you think maybe it’s too much trouble because you have to make that brown-sugar-maple simple syrup. But then you realize you can make it minutes before your friends show up and still manage to have icy cold cocktails in their hands almost before the air kisses have evaporated.
And so you tip your (summery straw) hat to Morgan Murphy for finding this gem, and to Scratch Kitchen & Cocktails in Norman, Oklahoma, for sharing it. And then you decide it’s time to start an indoor mint plant to get you through the long, cold days ahead.
Housed in what used to be an old telephone switchboard building, Scratch’s decor oozes cool sophistication. Edison bulbs illuminate the bar built by owner Brady Sexton. Inventive cocktails and a decadent menu are all crafted from, yes, scratch.
–Morgan Murphy, Off the Eaten Path: On the Road Again
- 1⁄4 cup bourbon
- 1 1⁄2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 1⁄2 Tbsp. Maple-Brown Sugar Syrup (recipe below)
- 5 to 7 fresh mint leaves
- 2 (3- x 1⁄2-inch) lemon peel strips
- 1 mint sprig
- Combine first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker; fill shaker with ice. Cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds). Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a rocks glass filled with ice. Hold mint sprig in your hand; slap it with your other hand to awaken the oils. Place in drink. Makes: 1 serving
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3⁄4 cup maple syrup
- Bring 2 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat; gradually add brown sugar, whisking until sugar dissolves. Whisk in syrup. Cool completely.
- Pour into a container; store, covered, in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Makes: 2 1⁄2 cups