Some mornings I don’t need to look out the window to know it’s going to be a lousy weather day. The grayness can be felt before it’s visually perceived and confirmed. Maybe it’s the precipitation that makes the air heavy with dread, but this morning, before I opened my eyes and performed that daily ritual of mindless phone scrolling before “waking up,” I sensed that the outside was poised for gloominess. I looked at my weather app: Rain and snow. All day. And tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow. April showers indeed.
Or “Fuck You Weather,” as I like to call it. Having lived in Montreal for enough time to feel existentially perplexed by the fact that I live here, I can tell you that Fuck You Weather seems to be its specialty. If it wasn’t invented here, then they certainly perfected the concept. Why would it just rain in April, when it can rain and snow? Why just stay below zero, when you can oscillate between temperatures just enough to glaze the sidewalks and surfaces with slippery ice that’s impossible to walk on? Why even bother with the season of spring, really? Instead, you could have four inches of snowfall in May, before being plunged 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 back 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 of “something-something love” and “something-something good place for artists” and “something-something rent more reasonable,” etc. Initiated into the SAD (seasonal affective disorder) club and no longer insouciant to sunshine, I now cling to any day that hints at temperate.
And those days do happen. Occasionally. Just before you think you’ll never crawl out of winter despair, Mother Nature will throw you a bone, as she did earlier this week. For roughly 36 hours, the sun came out at all its blazing glory, and it was winter no longer. Everyone who could, went outside and reveled in a sustained glimpse of warmer days ahead—a temporary amnesia befalls so that a tiny seed of hope can be planted. On my way home from work, I stopped for a drink outside on a whim, then decided to walk the long way, off the main streets, through the alleys lined with urban backyards full of patio furniture patiently waiting to be put to use. Even the half-industrial/half-developing neighborhood I passed like a stunning vista to me, and I was grateful for the late sunset. A long day in a good way. I wrung every last sun ray I could get out of it.
To me, the Backyard Smash tastes like what those winter-puncturing, intermittent fair-weather days feel like. The lemon and the mint provide the sunny reprieve, while the rye and bitters allow for seasonal ambiguity, so no one can begrudge you making one in January or July. It’s easy to make, and easier to enjoy. A Smash is mint, bitters, lemon, sugar, And spirit, so the Backyard Smash is actually just a rye smash, but you know, #marketing. My point is, feel free to use this recipe as a template; add berries, or switch out the sugar for honey, or sub out the rye with another spirit, etc. (I recently made one with Calvados, and it was sensational.)
- 4 lemon wedges (basically half a lemon)
- Small handful of mint
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces rye (Lot 40 is my usual go-to)
Muddle the mint, lemon, and bitters in a shaker. Add other ingredients, fill with ice, and shake. Strain over freshly cracked ice in a chilled rocks glass or if, you’re feeling lazy, you can nix the strainer and fresh ice and just dump the contents straight into your chilled glass.
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