Smash it


by Kevin Barrett, Foundation cocktail director

It’s summertime in the capital city, and you know what that means: It’s hot. After the winter we had, I’m not complaining about summer heat. I don’t have a lot of meat on my bones, and all the research I do for this column thins my blood a bit, so winter is not my friend. But what to drink in the summer madness?

Well, I say bourbon. You might say, “Kevin Barrett, are you crazy?” I am, but bourbon is still great in the summertime. You don’t have to drink it straight out of the bottle or even in an old fashioned, but you’d be a lot cooler if you did. Instead, make yourself a basil smash. It’s the best way to enjoy bourbon in sub-Saharan Africa, or on a hot summer day in Raleigh.

The basil smash is an original drink by former Foundation barman Andrew Shepherd. It’s based on the whiskey smash, a cocktail with mint created by James Beard Award winner Dale DeGroff (aka King Cocktail). You could also say Shepherd’s basil smash was inspired by the bourbon smash, an 1887 drink created by cocktail pioneer and author Jerry Thomas. But really, who knows? In the bartending world, credit over recipes often gets muddled, for lack of a better word.

Regardless of the inspiration, over the past five years the basil smash has been the most popular seasonal cocktail at Foundation. Imagine if a mint julep and a whiskey sour had a baby, and then that baby went on to become a great bartender and invented a drink called the basil smash. It’s like that. It’s often imitated, sometimes straight-up copied, but usually just stolen. So, here’s the official recipe. That’s right. Let your conscience be at ease, because I’m just going to give it away.

You might say, “Are you crazy? Are the owners of Foundation furious with you for giving away their secret recipe?” I am and they are, but I’m not sure why this time.

Let’s be honest, the best sandwich you’ve ever had wasn’t the one you made, but the best cocktail your friend ever has might be the basil smash you make him.   


Basil Smash

2 ounces of your favorite bourbon
(I choose Old Weller 107)

¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

¾ ounce basil-infused simple syrup
(recipe at right)

3 to 4 fresh basil leaves

Lightly muddle basil leaves in a shaker then add ice, bourbon, lemon juice, and basil-infused simple syrup.

Shake and strain over ice into a double rocks glass.

Garnish with basil sprig.

Basil-infused simple syrup

The basil syrup is equal parts water, sugar and basil. Bring 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil and remove from heat. Let cool for a few minutes then add 1 cup of fresh basil. Let sit for 20 minutes then strain.

If you’re still not sold on bourbon in the summer, then substitute your favorite gin. Everything else stays the same. I know what you’re thinking: “Kevin Barrett, did you just blow my mind?” Yes, ma’am. Yes, I did.