The Raymond Jennings

April 29, 2012
By Holly Jennings

This cocktail, developed while cooking from the previous DCCC pick, Thai Food, is based on a category of drinks called the Smash, also known as, according to David Wondrich in Imbibe!, the Smasher or Smash-Up, referring to that happens to the herb, traditionally mint, when it is shaken vigorously with ice, not what happens to you if you drink too many of them, though that could happen as well.

Apt descriptions like “whiskey sourish,” “sweet-tart,” “adult lemonade with a peppery kick” give you an idea of what this refreshing drink, served over crushed ice, tastes like, and why it is particularly welcome on a warm day. I was planning on giving this Thai-inspired cocktail a generic but descriptive title, like the Ginger–Thai Basil Smash, until, while searching for a photo prop, I spontaneously grabbed a personal effect of my father, a monogrammed hanky, and slid it under the cocktail. My father now joins company with Harvey Wallbanger and Tom Collins.

Makes 1 cocktail

3 lemon wedges
4 to 6 fresh Thai basil leaves, torn
¾ to 1 ounce Ginger–Thai Basil Syrup (see Note; recipe follows)
1¾ ounces rye whiskey
1 sprig fresh Thai basil, for garnish

Fill a rocks glass with crushed ice.

Place the lemon wedges, Thai basil leaves, and ¾ ounce of the syrup in a mixing glass and muddle. Add ice and the whiskey and shake vigorously. Taste and add up to ¼ ounce more syrup to get the right balance of sweet and tart. Double strain into the ice-filled glass. Garnish with the Thai basil sprig and serve with a straw, if desired.

This drink is meant to be tart, but pleasantly so. I have found ¾ ounce of syrup to be perfect every time I make this cocktail; if, however, your lemons are particularly sour, your wedges bigger than mine, or your taste buds more inclined to sweet, you may find you need a touch more syrup.

Ginger–Thai Basil Simple Syrup
This is a 2:1 simple syrup. The extra sugar not only creates a sweeter syrup and more luxurious texture, but also works, along with a touch of vodka, as a preservative. This is how I like to make simple syrup when infusing it with herbs, ginger, or any other fresh ingredients. (I got the idea of using vodka from David Wondrich’s book Imbibe!. In his recipe, he gives the option of using grain alcohol; if using, use half the amount of vodka used below.)

Makes scant 1¾ cups

1 small bunch fresh Thai basil (about 1 ounce)
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup water
1 (2-ounce) piece fresh ginger (about 3 to 4 inches in length, depending on width), peeled and sliced
¼ ounce vodka

Cut the Thai basil bunch in half or in thirds so that it will fit easily in the bottom of a small saucepan.

Combine the sugar, water, and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the Thai basil and return to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the syrup, pressing against the basil and ginger to extract any liquid. Double strain—using two fine-mesh sieves at once—into a clean glass jar, stir in the vodka, seal, and store in the refrigerator.

7 Comments to “The Raymond Jennings”

  1. Louanne Headrick says:

    Sounds to be more than refreshing. Your Dad would be more than honored. How delightful. See you so very soon. Love mom

  2. Darryl Flinn says:

    Holly… your dad and I used to frequent the jazz bars in downtown Akron. While I most often had a beer, Ray would have a “cocktail”. More often than not, something esoteric. He would have loved a “Raymond Jennings”.

    Love you gal . . . . Unk”D”

  3. Darryl, I had no idea you went to the jazz clubs in Akron with Dad. And I knew he liked scotch, but didn’t know about his love of cocktails. I’d like to hear more about those jazz club stories, sometime. HJ

  4. Sandra Korinchak says:

    Holly, did you keep your Thai basil growing inside all winter? Do you think I should grow some from seed–you did, right?–or buy a plant?

  5. Sandra, last summer I stuck plants in the ground. But I have planted it from seed. It just depends on how warm the summer is. Summer before last, when it was so cool and wet, I had trouble growing Thai basil. I didn’t try to keep it in the house over the winter. I assumed it wouldn’t like a cold VT winter, even indoors. But maybe there’s a way. I bet there is for someone, like you, with a particularly green thumb (my thumb is just pale green).

  6. What a wonderful thought and the pic with the hanky was wonderful. You just never know what will conjure up a memory do you?

  7. Yes, that’s why it’s nice to keep some of these old objects from the past. Thanks for the hanky Dad!


Leave a Reply