Muddlers, the time is now. Farmer’s markets around the country are bubbling forth with berries and fruit of all shades, begging to be smashed into a drink. And while there are summer drinks born of many techniques, there is perhaps no other cocktail tradition that celebrates the bounty of the season quite like the muddled cocktail. It’s been true for at least a century.
Two of the most classic prototypes are the smash, more specifically the Whiskey Smash—a more laissez faire, but no less delicious version of the mint julep—and the Sherry Cobbler, a grand invitation to muddle whatever you wish into a glass of sherry, top it with crushed ice and garnish without inhibition.
More than a century and a half later, one of London’s most beloved modern classics, the Bramble, was born from this template. A cross between a Gin Sour and a Cobbler, the Bramble is, as bartender Toby Cecchini calls it, “the riesling of the cocktail world, known by drinks weenies since seemingly forever.” Simply muddle fresh blackberries into simple syrup, add lemon and gin and top with crushed ice, and you’ve got one of the few ’80s drinks that should not be banished from the canon.
Thirty years later, the Bramble gave birth to Brad Thomas Parsons’ Shady Lane—blackberries, shiso, lime bitters and Lillet Rouge—a Momofuku-inspired offshoot named for the Pavement song of the same title. It takes its prototype one step further with a layering of luscious blackberry and lime syrup that preserves summer’s essence for the impending winter season.
But the muddled lineage does not end with berries. Deep into the land of rum and citrus, there has always been reason to muddle. Enter the Caipirinha, a warm-weather staple combining limes, sugar and cachaça all smushed together in what is Brazil’s wildly popular version of the Mojito. Simple enough in concept, the Caipirinha can be stretched to include all means of muddled ingredients reflecting any season, from summer herbs and stone fruit to grapefruit to pomegranate.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Temperatures are still high, and these are the drinks that keep us connected to the summer—pulverizing it into a cocktail so we can drink it down before it’s gone.