Monday, September 1, 2014

Silk Road Smash

A smash is a julep-like drink, and this is very much like a mint julep, only tastier.  There is no better libation to use to console yourself at the end of summer than a Silk Road Smash.

I got this recipe from Robin Gross, a San-Francisco based intellectual property lawyer and ED of IP Justice, an NGO which works for a more balanced international IP regime.  We met at the Internet Governance Forum in Rio in 2008, and are Facebook friends.  It is funny how many of my contacts come from a brief period of work on IP reform a number of years ago.

Robin posted a picture of this cocktail with ingredients, and when I saw it I had to make it. I was glad that I did.   It is tart, juicy refreshing, beautiful to look at, and quite potent.  Below is Robin's recipe for a single serving, which I have adapted, and following that a pitcher drink version that I served on the Cape to 10 people.

Silk Road Smash

For a few drinks (this quantity serves one;  you can multiply to serve up to four(:
  • 8-12 blackberries
  • 12 leaves mint, torn with a few more for garnish
  • 2-3  teaspoons cardamom syrup (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters, like Angostura (or cardamom bitters if you have)
  • ice
  • soda water (optional)


  • Muddle the blackberries and mint in a cocktail shaker. Add lemon juice and syrup and muddle a bit more.
  • Add bourbon and bitters and stir. 
  • Fill the shaker with ice, and shake for about 30 second.
  • Fill an old-fashioned glass with more ice, and strain the smash into the glass.  garnish each with two blackberries and a few mint leaves. 
  • Serve and enjoy.  If anyone finds the drink too strong you can serve it in a high ball glass and top it off with some soda.

Pitcher drink version for a crowd:

  • 1  pint blackberries
  • 1 bunch mint, most of the leaves torn and about 20 reserved for garnish 
  • 1/2 cup cardamom syrup (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons  lemon juice
  • 20 ounces bourbon
  • 20 dashes aromatic bitters, like Angostura (or cardamom bitters if you have)
  • ice
  • soda water (optional)


  1. In a two quart pitcher, mash blackberries and mint together.  
  2. Add syrup and lemon juice and mash a bit more.
  3. Add bourbon and bitters, stir, and leave aside for about 1/2 hour.  (It is more difficult to muddle a large quantity of berries and this will allow the flavors to permeate the whiskey.)
  4. Prepare the glasses:  fill 10 old-fashioned (8 ounce short) glasses, ideally pre-chilled in the freezer, with ice.  Garnish each with 2-3 blackberries and a few mint leaves. 
  5. Add ice to the pitcher with the smash ingredients and stir for 30 seconds.
  6. Strain the smash into another large pitcher filled with ice.
  7. To serve, pour the smash into the cocktail glasses, trying not to disturb the garnish.  Don't worry too much because after a sip no one will care. Serve with soda water for those who find it too stiff.

Cardamom syrup:  In a small pot, boil 1 cup of water and add 25 cardamom pods, smashed. Simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat, covered to prevent evaporation.  Add 1 cup sugar, raise heat to medium and cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Let stand until cool, and then strain into a clean jar and store in the refrigerator. If you don't have time to make it in advance, you can chill it by setting the pot in a pan of ice and stirring until the syrup is cold.  This syrup can be used in lots of cocktails and is worth having on hand.  It is even good over vanilla ice cream or drizzles on a dish of orange segments or sliced peaches or nectarines.

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