Brandy Smash

For George Smith, the first drunk driver arrested

Your cocktail calendar entry for: September
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The world’s first drunk driving arrest was September 10, 1897 and to mark that occasion we’re mixing up the Brandy Smash.  George Smith was a London cab driver at the time and was arrested after smashing his cab into a building on New Bond Street.  So while doing as George did is something we definitely do not recommend, he does earn a certain notoriety by being the first.  And his cab is on display at The Science Museum in London.

The First Drunk Driving Arrest

George Smith was 25 years old at the time and, believe it or not, driving an electrically powered cab.  According to the Morning Post, his cab ‘swerved from one side of the road to the other, and ran across the footway into 165 New Bond Street’.   Pretty tony address these days, being home to a Givenchy boutique.  It’s a also modest walk from Disrepute, one of our favorite London bars.

It happened at 12:45 AM and, as you can imagine, created a problem.  Smith admitted that he’d had “two or three glasses of beer” and apologized.  He also noted this was “the first time I have been charged with being drunk in charge of a cab.”

Given his ready confession long before the breathalyzer or its predecessor, the drunkometer, you might wonder about his mental facilities.  But George should have had pretty good neurological prowess.  What is known as the “Knowledge” was made a requirement for London cab drivers in 1865.  It requires passing a test on the quickest and best routes to get through London’s overly complicated road network.  Things were obviously simpler in his time.  Now it typically takes three to four years of work to pass the test.

Then again, there were no laws on the books prohibiting drunk driving at the time.  The police made the arrest citing a possible mishap that was averted.  They argued over how fast the cab was going (its maximum speed was 8 mph) and how difficult it was to stop a runaway motor compared to a horse.  His sentence was a fine of 25 shillings.  By our calculations that would be about £180 today.  The penalties have obviously become larger in the intervening period.

The Brandy Smash Cocktail

One must only consider Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver to realize that determining an appropriate Drink of the Day is hazardous when it comes to taxi drivers.  And Bickle didn’t smash his cab into a building.

So in honor of George Smith and his errant taxi ways we’re naming the Brandy Smash as Drink of the Day.  Even if it doesn’t contain the gin so typically associated with London.

A smash is a family of drinks recognized by Jerry Thomas in his 1862 Bar-Tender’s Guide.  Yes, the guy who had the rivalry going with Harry Johnson, the inventor if the Bijou cocktail.  A smash is made up of a spirit, sugar, mint and ice, much like the Mint Juleps we mix for the Kentucky Derby.

The 1850s were really the heyday of the smash.  Put people, mint and ice in one place and smashes broke out.  Of all the varieties, the Brandy Smash was far and away the most popular.  Strangely enough the popularity of smashes died off until they were resurrected by Dale DeGroff.  The recipe we present is, in effect, the Brandy version of Mr. DeGroff’s Whiskey Smash.

brandy smash

Brandy Smash

Smashes were among the most popular of drinks in the mid-19th century and among them the Brandy Smash was the runaway winner. Similar in concept to a mint julep, the eminent bartender Jerry Thomas called it a "Julep on a small plan." Easy to mix, it's a refreshing drink for warm days.
5 from 1 vote


  • Double Old Fashioned glass
  • Muddler


  • oz Cognac
  • 2 dash Simple syrup
  • 2 dash Orange bitters
  • 2 Lemon wheel
  • Mint sprig
  • Garnish: Lemon wheel and mint sprig


  • Muddle one sprig of mint with simple syrup and bitters in a rocks glass.
  • Add one lemon wheel and muddle to release juice.
  • Fill glass with crushed ice or small cubes.
  • Add Cognac on top.
  • Gently swizzle (stir) the drink.
  • Garnish with lemon wheel and sprig of mint.
  • Drink. But don't drive.
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