When Jörg Meyer created the Gin Basil Smash in the summer of 2008, he had no idea how successful his drink recipe would become. Sure enough, as owner and manager of one of the best cocktail bars in Hamburg, he knew exactly how to create drinks customers love. But then, many bartenders and managers know this, and only a few come up with something that goes down in cocktail history.
Like the Porn Star Martini by Douglas Ankrah, the Gin Basil Smash first became a best-selling drink at its original bar. But soon, it developed into a worldwide phenomenon. And there is one more parallel with the Porn Star Martini: only a few actually know where the drink originated. So, time to shed some light on this and show how you can make a perfect Gin Basil Smash at home.
History of the Gin Basil Smash aka Gin Pesto
When talking about the history of this drink, it makes sense to start with some background information. The inventor of the Gin Basil Smash, Jörg Meyer, currently is one of Germany's most famous bartenders. And back in the mid-2000s, his vision was to open and manage his own cocktail bar.
Then, in 2007 he opened "Bar le Lion - Bar de Paris" in Hamburg. Within a few months, the bar built up a reputation to be one of the cities finest cocktail bars. And not only people in Hamburg and other parts of Germany heard of this. Consequently, in 2008, the bar was awarded the World’s Best New Cocktail Bar by Tales of the Cocktail, the biggest most influential trade conference in the spirits industry.
Meyer constantly updated the menus of his bar by adapting to seasonal and industry trends. And so it happened that in 2008 he invented a summer cocktail initially named a Gin Pesto. On the 10th of July in the same year, he blogged about his new creation and made his creation known to the greater public. And until today, in honor of the start of this terrific victory march, the 10th of July is celebrated inofficially as GBS day - the Gin Basil Smash day.
How Meyer came up with the Basil Smash idea
Later on, Meyer explained how he came up with the idea of making this iconic drink. On a visit to New York, he had countless Whiskey Smashes, and once back home, he decided to create a smash cocktail himself. However, even though he already had a Gin Smash in mind, he lacked inspiration.
Then a basil garnish in a recipe booklet that got into his hands during a workshop inspired him to experiment with basil. Instead of solely incorporating basil as a garnish, Meyer began muddling basil leaves with lemon. Of course, Gin, with its various botanicals and flavors, seemed like a perfect match. Et Voila, Meyer's version of a Smash cocktail was complete.
Meyer also created a Highball version of his drink selling under the name Gin Basil highball at another bar in Hamburg, the Boilerman bar. Both drinks are equally delightful and absolute crowd-pleasers. So if you ever visit Hamburg, make sure to stop by Bar le Lion and Boilerman to try the original version yourself.
Tips for making a perfect Gin Basil Smash
When working with mint and basil in cocktails, it usually is enough to solely slap the leaves to release aroma and break the leaf structure by shaking the cocktail. Especially with mint, this procedure avoids releasing too many bitter notes. For the Gin Basil Smash, it is a bit different, though. Meyer recommends muddling the leaves before to create a greener drink.
And talking about those basil leaves, I want to bring up another suggestion by his creator. In this particular case, there is no such thing as too much basil. Therefore, make sure not to hold back on this element.
The same applies to the amount of Gin in the cocktail. While 2 ounces are in the recipe, Jörg Meyer has a simple rule of thumb when it comes to measuring the amount of Gin:
"5cl Gin is not enough.
6cl Gin is the recipe.
7cl Gin is love"Jörg Meyer
- 12 leaves Fresh basil
- 2 oz Dry Gin
- 1 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 0.5 oz Rich simple syrup
- 1 sprig Mint (for garnish)
- Gently muddle the basil leaves in your cocktail shaker.
- Add the other ingredients as well as lots of ice and shake until well-chilled.
- Strain into a chilled, ice-filled old fashioned glass.
- Garnish with mint sprig.