Lately I’ve been mixing with armagnac, cognac’s lesser known cousin. Armagnac and cognac are both distilled from grapes, but unlike cognac which is twice distilled in pot stills, armagnac is typically distilled only once in column stills, which results in a different flavor profile. Whereas cognac is smooth and refined, armagnac has a lot more character and roughness which makes it very interesting in cocktails.
So for this month’s Mixology Monday Smash Challenge, I decided to use armagnac as the base spirit. It’s also fitting that, historically, smashes used to be made with brandy before whiskey smashes became more popular. My inspiration for the drink was a traditional French pairing, plum and armagnac. In France you often see a simple dessert of Agen pruneaux (dried plums) with armagnac. Armagnac and the best prunes come from Gascony in southwestern France, so it’s only natural to serve them together.
Plums are in season and I had on hand a variety of pluot (Flavor King, a plum-apricot hybrid) from Frog Hollow Farm that I decided to incorporate in the cocktail. They are very sweet and have a slight acidic bite. To reinforce the plum flavor, I also used some plum eau-de-vie. Combining armagnac with the eau-de-vie gave depth to the cocktail. I added a touch of lemon juice for acidity. The plums were quite sweet so I did not have to add sugar or simple syrup. I garnished the drink with a slice of fresh plum and a couple of brandied cherries, plus fresh mint from my patio.
Gascon Smash | to a shaker tin add | 1 oz armagnac | 0.5 oz plum eau-de-vie | 0.25 oz lemon juice | 1/2 ripe plum, sliced | shake with ice | double strain onto fresh crushed ice in a julep cup | plum slice, brandied cherry, and mint garnish
The Gascon Smash was robust like its base spirit. Its flavor was redolent of plums with the complexity of the armagnac kicking in for a beautiful finish. The crushed ice made it a refreshing concoction well suited for a hot summer day.
- A Julep by Any Other Name – A brief history of the smash in Imbibe Magazine