rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

Recipe

 

  • 2 oz white rum

  • ¾ oz lime juice

  • 1 oz simple syrup

  • 10-12 mint leaves - picked off the stem

  • chilled soda water

  • mint sprigs for garnish

 

In a shaker, muddle the mint leaves in the simple syrup.  Add the rum, lime juice and fill with ice.  Shake for 8-10 seconds and strain into a highball or collins glass over cracked ice (with one or two full sized cubes).  top with 1-2 oz soda water.  Briefly stir with a straw to mix. Garnish with the mint springs.

If you make a Mojito, let me see!  

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Overview

Few drinks are as widely known - and widely enjoyed - as the Mojito. It is perhaps second only to the Margarita in that regard.  It was one of the original ring-leaders of the modern cocktail movement back in the 90's and a primary driver of the idea that fresh ingredients actually make a huge a difference in cocktail quality, for which I am eternally grateful.  Today the it remains among the tastiest cocktails you'll encounter.

 

Born of Cuban origins, a Mojito is very simple to make, it is nothing more than a Daiquiri with muddled mint served in a tall glass with soda water (aka a Southside Fizz with white rum).  The key to making one that meets the it's potential as the ultimate summer refreshment is the ice (along with quality ingredients and accurate measuring, of course).

 

What you want are small-ish ice cubes.  Not as fine as crushed ice, but not as large as what you’d get from a standard ice cube tray. The goal is to lengthen the drink - which brings out more mint flavor - and chill it to a satisfyingly arctic temperature, without watering it down too much.  I like to use hand-cracked ice, with maybe 1-2 normal-sized cubes in there.  Bag ice is another good option - which is typically a mix of cubes, slush and snow. 

Mojito

Commentary

When you have a drink this popular being prepared by all walks of bartender all over the world, you’re going to find a lot of opinions on how it should, or must, be made proliferating the internet.  Here are some of the common points of contention:

 

Raw sugar vs. Simple Syrup?

You'll see a lot of Mojito recipes calling for raw granulated sugar, but simple in much easier, and more consistent drink.  My reasoning behind this is addressed on the simple syrup page, since I think it applies to just all cocktails in general. 

 

White Sugar vs. Dark Sugar

Some swear by using brown sugar in Mojitos, but white sugar is better, hands down.  It adds no flavor, only sweetness, which allows the mint and lime flavors to sing louder and brighter, which to me, is the prime objective of a Mojito.

 

Muddle Lime Wedges?

Some bars get so muddle-happy that they muddle some lime wedges into along with the mint, in lieu of juice. This will give you a sharp lime flavor courtesy of the oils in the rind, similar to a Caipirinha.  It's not bad, but I prefer just fresh lime juice, which gives the drink a more delicate quality that I think is befitting. Also, muddled limes drown out the mint.

 

Leave the Mint in the Glass or Strain it Out?

This is the big one.  In popular culture, Mojito’s are often depicted with pieces of mint floating around in the glass to signify that it is, indeed, a Mojito.  In many ways, this image helped to popularize the drink, and I think for that reason many bars serve the drink this way.  They will either muddle the mint in the glass and top with it the remaining ingredients, a la Mint Julep, or shake the drink and dump it into a glass without straining.

 

However, I prefer to strain the mint out.  Primarily because mint - while it’s aroma is beautiful - doesn’t taste all that great.  Plus it sticks in your teeth.  So having it in the glass doesn’t add anything flavor-wise.  As for the aesthetics, I don’t think there's much advantage there either.  Those glamour shots taken in a studio may look nice, but when you do it yourself I find the drink can take on the appearance of murky swamp water.

 

However, I do think having some remnant of mint in the glass is nice visual touch, just not the whole leaf.  This is why I forgo a fine strainer - which I would normally use for a drink that’s muddled - and pull the gate back on the Hawthorne strainer so tiny shards of mint end up in the glass, but ones that aren’t big enough to have much of an impact.

 

Admittedly, we’re veering into personal preference territory here.  If you really like your Mojito with leaves in the glass, who am I to stop you?  If you go this route, I advise preparing the drink right in the glass, rather that shaking and dumping it in.

 

Variations

  

As you might imagine, any spirit you plug into the Mojito recipe works like a charm (gin makes it a Southside Fizz).  It also takes well to the addition of the usual muddled suspects: strawberry, pineapple, raspberries, cucumber, etc.  Or replace half of the simple syrup portion with half an ounce of creme de peche (peach liqueur), for a Peach Mojito.  Or replace all of the simple syrup with 1½ oz watermelon syrup for a watermelon Mojito.  You get the idea.  

 

As for variations that are established cocktails in their own right.  There are a few.  One of my favorites is is the Queen's Park Swizzle, which is really more of a relative, and like a grown up mojito.  It has its very own page on the site.  Another is the Old Cuban, a modern classic that’s a love child between the Mojito and French 75.  What could be better?

The Story of the Mojito

This we know for sure, the Mojito was invented in Cuba.  Beyond that there’s a lot of speculation and hearsay, which is to be expected of a cocktail of this magnitude (no one is fighting over the origins of the Between the Sheets).

 

One popular tale that gets thrown around a lot is that the Mojito begins with the “El Draque”  a drink containing all the necessary ingredients that was supposedly created in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake, hero Naval captain to the English and ruthless pirate to the Spanish (he is listed at #2 on Forbes top earning pirates list)   This creation occurred near Havana with help of some locals and was used to treat an outbreak of dysentery and scurvy amongst his crew.  Naturally, as the story goes, it worked wonders.

 

But these days when it comes to matters of cocktail history, I tend to think the vaguest answer is usually the right one. Which is why I subscribe to Wayne Curtis’ broader, less dynamic version that he puts forth in his fantastic book “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the World in Ten Cocktails”.   He surmises that the Mojito likely originated amongst rural cuban worker’s sometime in the 19th century, made it’s way to the coast and into Havana nightlife.  This coincided with the formation of the Bacardi company which pioneered the light Spanish-style rum which laid the foundation for the clean and crisp white rum’s know today. With their rich cane and light fruit flavors, these rums were the perfect canvas for lime and mint to shine on.  I would argue that it wasn’t until this style of rum existed, that the Mojito did as well.  

 

Prohibition & Cuban Tourism

But regardless of when it was first conceived, the Mojito really hit its stride during prohibition. During the 1920s and 30s Cuba was attracting hordes of thirsty American tourists hopping over from Key West, looking for a good drink.  And now famous bars like Sloppy Joe’s and La Bodeguita del Medio were up to the task, pumping out Mojitos and Daiquiris for the clamoring masses, including many celebrities like Ernest Hemingway and Errol Flynn. The Mojito’s first appearance of a proper Mojito recipe in a cocktail book Sloppy Joe’s first Annual Cocktail Book in 1932.  

 

It fell out of favor during the 60s and 70s, along with all cocktails in general. But in 1980’s the wind began to turn back in it’s favor, beginning in Miami, and in the 90s as Latin cuisine was getting renewed interested as well, the Mojito exploded with a vengeance.  It’s widespread popularity prompted even the most cocktail averse restaurants and bars to invest in a muddler.  Sour mix may have been an accepted sub-in for fresh citrus juice at the time (which thankfully is no longer the case) there was no pre-bottled answer to freshly muddled mint. Which I count the Mojito as one of the original seeds that helped spawn the vast forest that is the thriving cocktail culture we enjoy today.  

 

The Name

Certainly some of credit to the Mojito’s popularity must be given to its name, which is the perfect balance of exotic and easy to pronounce.  While there isn’t a short and direct answer as to where does it come from (is there ever?), there are some clues.

 

The drink may be based on the Spanish verb mojar, which means “to make wet”. Or ict ould be a derivative “mojo”, a traditional sauce of hispanic culture that takes various forms, typically containing pepper, garlic, other spices, and sometimes herbs. Goya makes a bottled version called Mojo Criollo (Creole).  Interestingly, in many early appearances in cocktail books the Mojito recipe is actually printed under Mojo Criollo or Mojito Criollo.  So those who named the drink called it “little wet sauce”?  Or maybe it was a joke? Either way, Mojito is a damn cool name.

 

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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