It’s a cocktail with a twist – and not “twist” in the sense of a slice of citrus zest perched on the rim of the glass. It’s (very!) loosely based on a fairly modern cocktail, the Gin Basil Smash – but without smashing the basil … It’s a great story though!

All too often in the world of mixed drinks the precise origins of a particular drink are lost in the mists of time. Frequently a fairly simple concept is tweaked, changed or substituted and evolves into something which bears little resemblance to the original. So it’s somewhat refreshing to find a well documented origin tale such as that for the Gin Basil Smash.

German bartender Jörg Meyer was in New York and dropped in to experience a cocktail which had got the mixology fraternity chattering. It was a drink devised by Dale Degroff, a hero of the New York bar and cocktail scene, based – loosely – on a group of drinks popular in the 19th century, the Smash.

The Smash was a drink that allowed bartenders to vary the spirit used in a simple cocktail. It was essentially a spirit, which was muddled with mint, sugar and ice and then stirred in a mixing glass before being strained into the final drinking glass. The switch up came in the choice of spirit: it could be whisk(e)y, brandy or gin. So it was reminiscent of the bourbon-based Mint Julep which had its halcyon days around the 1850s.

Degroff started playing around with whiskey, muddled lemon juice and his own homemade syrups instead of sugar. His Whiskey Smash was something of a mash up of a Whiskey Sour and a Mint Julep. But the drink got Mayer thinking and once back in Hamburg he started playing around. Instead of mint he decided to use basil which added a more herbaceous twist as well as an alluring green colour. He also substituted gin for whiskey. This was in May 2008.

That it was a hit is evidenced by the fact that his establishment Le Lion Bar de Paris was soon selling a few hundred of these cocktails every week! Their annual gin order for this Smash was 22 000 bottles! It’s described as the ideal summertime cocktail since it’s quick and easy to make with gin, fresh lemon juice, simple sugar syrup, basil leaves and sparkling soda water.

But here’s the twist: Beefeater, one of the world’s most beloved gin brands, introduced the boldly citrus blood orange version to the global market in 2019 – even though their first citrus gin was bottled way back in 1876.

The Beefeater take on the Gin Basil Smash has morphed and tweaked the drink again. Instead of straight gin, the cocktail calls for the blood orange gin. Rather than using a simple syrup, the drink ramps up the orange flavour by using a sweet orange liqueur. (Your choice of whether to use Cointreau or Triple Sec). And in the place of lemon juice, orange juice is used – along with a small amount of tonic water to add a subtle bitterness to the final result, along with the more standard soda water.

Basil and fresh orange wheels are used as garnish, more as a nod to the drink’s inspiration than anything else since the basil leaves aren’t muddled or crushed as they would have been in the original.

With all that vitamin C in the orange elements of the cocktail, it could almost be considered a flu fighter ahead of winter’s onslaught.

Smashing Basil Punch


25 ml Beefeater Blood Orange

25 ml orange liqueur (Cointreau or Triple Sec)

25 ml orange juice

50 ml tonic water

25 ml soda water

A dash of Angostura Bitters

Fresh orange and basil for garnish


Build the drink in a gin glass with ice.

Stir to combine and chill.

Garnish with an orange wheel and a few basil leaves.