Need to add some excitement to your summer cocktails? It’s time to smash it up, with some of my favorite twists on the classic cocktail! First appearing in the 1840’s, the traditional Smash is a simple cocktail of mint, sugar, and any liquor. At its height in the 1850’s it became one of the country’s most popular cocktails, but sadly our little Smash fell into decline over the years. Thankfully, with the meteoric rise of mixology, the Smash has made a blazing comeback, and is on cocktail lists around the country. Get out your muddler, It’s time to start smashing!

Summer is a great time for a Smash because fruits and herbs are so fresh and delicious!

1. Aperol Grape Smash

I’m going to tell you something, and you have to believe me. This cocktail might be one of the most drinkable (and I mean dangerously good) on planet Earth. I first discovered this gem on the yacht docks in San Diego. (No, most unfortunately I was not ON a yacht.) I wanted something refreshing, yet with a “Calgon, take me away effect.” When I tasted it, I was suddenly looking at boats in Portofino, Italy. The Aperol Smash is now my Calgon cocktail.

Ingredients:
– 1 oz Aperol

– 1 1/2 oz Stoli vodka

– 3-4 green grapes

– small handful of mint leaves

– 1/2 oz lemon juice

– 1/2 oz agave nectar

– club soda

Either slice your grapes or break out the elbow grease for a hard muddle! Join the grapes, mint, lemon juice, & agave nectar & muddle. Fill your glass with ice. Add Aperol & Stoli. Give it a good shake. I like to present this cocktail in a tulip or wine glass. It’s that special. Top with a splash of soda & a few mint leaves.

One of my taste testers, after trying this cocktail shook his head, and said, “This just isn’t fair. Alcohol isn’t supposed to taste that good…is it?” Make up a batch of this for your next summer cocktail party or brunch, & your guests will be begging for more.

2. Blackberry Whiskey Smash

Hands down, this is my new favorite whiskey cocktail! Growing up in North Carolina, picking blackberries off the vines around my Papaw’s farm, and with whiskey being my first spirit love, this cocktail is a nostalgic nod to my Southern upbringing. The Whiskey Smash was invented in 1862 by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, who by many, is considered the father of American mixology. Traditionally, the cocktail is Bourbon whiskey, mint, simple syrup, & lemon. Sounds delicious enough? Now just imagine with fresh, juicy blackberries muddled in. It’s a dream come true.

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 oz Bulleit Rye

– handful of mint leaves

– 4-5 blackberries

– 3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

– 1/2 oz agave nectar

– splash of club soda, if you like

Gently muddle blackberries with mint leaves, agave, & lemon juice. Fill your glass with ice. Top with Bulleit Rye. Give it one or two firm shakes, no need to get jiggy with it. Top with soda or serve as is. Garnish with a few mint leaves.

Whiskey lovers, welcome to your new summer fling.

3. Strawberry Basil Gin Smash

It’s probably fair to say I eat my weight in strawberries. Much like Bubba in Forrest Gump with shrimp, I believe strawberries should go in anything from risotto to balsamic vinegar to dessert. And now with the surge of beautifully crafted gins on the market, this cocktail is meant to be!

Ingredients:
– 1 1/4 oz Junipero or craft botanical gin

– 5-6 slices strawberries

– 1-2 basil leaves (depending on size)

– 2 wedge squeezes of lime

– A few drops of balsamic vinegar or syrup

– 1/2 oz agave nectar

– club soda

Muddle strawberries, basil (be careful not to overmuddle and bruise leaves), lime, & agave. Add a few drops of balsamic. Fill glass with ice, & add Junipero. Give it a good shake, making sure all of the ingredients mix. Top with soda.

It’s a beautiful cocktail, bursting with red & green, with the botanical notes of the gin in a dance with the basil & strawberry. This cocktail is a summer melody.

4. Watermelon Tequila Smash

Summer = watermelon. Summer = Tequila. I’m about to make your picnics & beach parties a lot more fun. Be warned though, this one is potent! Two big words of advice. 1. Use very ripe, juicy watermelon. As a mild melon, if it isn’t flavorful, your cocktail won’t taste like anything but tequila. 2. Use a high quality blanco. If you skimp, you will hate yourself, and maybe me.

Ingredients:
– 1 oz Dobel blanco tequila

– Dark pink, ripe watermelon

– 2 wedges lime

– 3/4 oz agave nectar

– club soda

Gently muddle watermelon and lime with agave nectar. Fill glass with ice. Add tequila. (note the pour is lower on this, because of the mildness of watermelon. You don’t want to overwhelm your cocktail.) Give it a good shake. Now, if you like flotsam in your cocktail, top with soda and be done. And most smashes, I say leave as is. But watermelon gets mealy, and I don’t want a mealy cocktail! I recommend straining over fresh ice into a nice tulip glass or a traditional margarita glass, then topping with soda.

Not a tequila fan? Substitute a high quality vodka, and up your pour to 1 1/2 ounces if you like.

5. Blueberry Rum Smash

Get ready to go on your siesta! This drink has been lovingly referred to by fans as “a vacation in a glass.” So close your eyes, imagine you are on the island of St. John, looking out at crystal-blue water, holding your Rum Smash, and smile.

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 oz 10 Cane Rum brown sugar

– small handful of blueberries

– 1 tablespoon brown sugar

– 3/4 oz lemon juice

– thinly sliced lemon and extra blueberries

Gently muddle the blueberries, brown sugar, & lemon juice. We don’t want to annihilate the blueberries, we just want to release the juices! (I dare say massage them.) Fill your glass with ice. Add rum, and give it a good shake, dissolving the sugar and melding the flavors. Top with your favorite ginger beer. (You can use ginger ale in a pinch, but trust me, the beer is tops.) Garnish with a thin lemon slice and a spike of blueberries.

Ahh, now go to your island happy place.

Until next time, have a smashingly good summer! Cheers.

What are your favorite summer cocktails? Tell us in the comments below.