Jump Into Spring With Backyard Smash

Sometimes in the morning I don’t have to look out the window to know it’s going to be a lousy day. Grayness can be felt before it is visually perceived and confirmed. Maybe it’s the rain that makes the air heavy with terror, but this morning, before I opened my eyes and performed this daily ritual of mindlessly flicking through my phone before “waking up,” I sensed that outside was ready for darkness. I looked at my weather app: Rain and snow. All day. And tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow. Indeed, the April rains.

Or “Fuck You Weather” as I like to call it. Having lived in Montreal long enough to feel existentially baffled by the fact that I live here, I can tell you that Fuck You Weather seems to be his specialty. If it wasn’t invented here, then they certainly improved the concept. Why does it only rain in April when it can rain and snow? Why just stay below freezing when you can fluctuate between temperatures just enough to cover sidewalks and surfaces in slippery ice that’s impossible to walk on? Why bother with the spring season at all? Instead, four inches of snow can fall in May before you sink into three months of high heat and humidity.

I grew up in a climate that was very easy to take for granted. — California? people repeat to me when I tell them where I’m from. “What are you doing here?” Good question, I always think, and then give my standard answer “something I like”, “something is a good place for artists”, “something is more reasonable to rent”, etc. .Initiated into the SAD (seasonal affective disorder) club and no longer indifferent to sunlight, now I cling to any day that hints at moderate.

And those days happen. Sometimes. Before you think you’ll never make it out of winter despair, Mother Nature will throw you a bone, just like she did earlier this week. For about 36 hours, the sun shone in all its dazzling glory, and winter was gone. Everyone who could, went outside and enjoyed the steady glimpse of warmer days ahead – temporary amnesia befalls so that a tiny seed of hope can be planted. On my way home from work, I stopped on a whim for a drink outside and then decided to walk the long way, from the main streets, through alleys lined with urban backyards full of garden furniture patiently waiting to be used. Even the semi-industrial/semi-development area I passed was a stunning sight, and I was grateful for the late sunset. Long day in a good way. I squeezed out of it all the last rays of the sun that I could.

To me, Backyard Smash tastes like those intermittent clear-weather days that cut through winter. Lemon and mint provide a sunny respite, while rye and bitters allow seasonal ambiguity, so no one will regret if you cook them in January or July. It’s easy to make and easier to enjoy. Smash is mint, bitter, lemon, sugar and alcohol, so Backyard Smash is really just a rye cocktail, but you know, #marketing. My point is, feel free to use this recipe as a template; add berries, or replace sugar with honey, or replace rye alcohol with other alcohol, etc. (I recently made one with calvados and it was sensational).

Beat in the backyard

Ingredients:

  • 4 lemon wedges (usually half a lemon)
  • A small handful of mint
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • ¾ oz. simple syrup
  • 2 oz rye (my usual lot 40)

Mix mint, lemon and bitters in a shaker. Add other ingredients, fill with ice and shake. Strain over freshly crushed ice into a chilled rocks glass, or if you’re feeling lazy, you can ditch the strainer and fresh ice and just pour the contents straight into a chilled glass.

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