The Secret to Fruit-Filled Smashes, Spritzers and Sangrias
In summer, the best bartenders scour produce markets, snatching up berries, melons, stone fruits, and garden herbs in order to create fragrant, fruity libations. Smashes and sangrias are perennial favorites, as are effervescent concoctions mixing spirits with sparkling wine or soda water.
The smash is an American classic with an illustrious history traceable to the original bartending book, Jerry Thomas’ The Bon Vivant’s Companion, published in 1862. The whiskey smash—fresh mint, chipped ice and American whiskey—evolved from the mint julep. Over the years, recipes have added seasonal fruit and substituted gin, vodka or rum. Whatever the mixture, muddling, or at least vigorous shaking, is key; and it’s usually served over ice in a tall Collins glass.
Bartender Danielle Rivera’s Raspberry Bramble (also called the Ramble), served at the Spotted Horse in Westport, is a gorgeous, red-hued smash. “It’s the official drink of the horse-racing circuit,” she says. To make the drink, muddle raspberries with a few lemon wedges before adding one-and-a-half ounces of Hendrick’s Gin and a half ounce of Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur. Give it all a hard shake, and pour over crushed ice.
The spritzer traces its roots to Austria, where it’s called a gespritzter. This category covers all chilled drinks mixing sparkling water and wine. The standard recipe involves filling a tall glass with cubed ice, adding three ounces of aromatic white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc or Albariño work well) and one ounce of soda water. A close cousin of the white wine spritzer is the low-alcohol sparkling wine cocktail, mixing bubbly with a dash of liqueur, served in a Champagne flute. The best known of these is the Kir Royal—the original French aperitif, topping a thimble of Crème de Cassis with Champagne. Many variations abound, often substituting Prosecco or Cava with spirits like Campari, Aperol, St. Germain, Chambord and Lillet mixed in.
At Greenwich’s J-House, bartender Alejandro Torres has created the J-House Fizz, mixing three parts Valdo Prosecco, one part St. Germain elderflower liqueur and a sprinkle of hibiscus powder. “The hibiscus brings a seductive red color to the drink,” he says. “Women love it because it’s light in alcohol and bubbly.”
Sangria was first introduced to American drinkers during the 1964 World’s Fair. It has been part of Spanish culture since Roman times when wine and water were mixed to make the water, they believed, safer to drink. Brandy and fruit were added by the 18th century, and it took off from there in most Latin countries. Under European Union laws, sangria must have less than 12-percent alcohol. But don’t tell that to Erik Zeiss, barman at Sign of the Whale in Stamford. His potent recipe includes a half ounce each of Belvedere Wild Berry Vodka, DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps and Malibu Coconut Rum, a quarter ounce of Patron Tequila, mixed with orange and pineapple juices, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and wine, all served in Mason jars. “For my summer recipe, I change from red to white wine,” he says, “and I always add a kicker of Sprite.”
A version of this article appeared in the June 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Sips of Summer.