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ALL ABOUT THE MOJITO

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There are fewer cocktails in the world that are as well known as the mojito, especially on a  tropical beachfront or even poolside on a hot, sunny day. Truly, is there anything more indicative of vacation than this classic cocktail? Not really.

I recall my busy summers as a bartender, serving customers looking to relax and cool off. When someone would call out for a mojito, I could inevitably feel a shift: The crowd would fall silent, mouths watering from its very mention, and I would turn to my barback and say, “We’re going to need mint. All the mint!”

That story is not without a flair of embellishment, but it’s not far off from the truth. There is something about this cocktail: Try as I might to hate it, the truth is that I can’t.

Although I’m a little scarred from making thousands of them, the mojito is just too good; it hits the spot every time, and I find myself sitting back and relaxing like I’m on vacation whenever I have this fun summer drink.

Frankly, I love them. Even after making so many from the bar drink menu, I am a huge fan of mojitos and think they should be made with due respect.

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WHAT IS A MOJITO?

The mojito is one of the most popular cocktails that is technically in the fizz cocktail family (a subset of a sour, containing base alcohol + acid/sour + sweetener + carbonated water). It’s traditionally served in a tall glass with ice (such as a Collins).

While there are so many variations– some of which I’ll share below– a basic mojito offers a combination of sweetness, tart lime, and herbal minty flavors:

  • Rum
  • Acid (in this case, fresh lime juice and extra lime wedges)
  • Sweetener/sugar (typically simple syrup)
  • Fresh mint
  • Club soda/sparkling water

It requires a little prep time because you need to muddle your mint (and fruit if you’re including that). An excellent mojito relies on fresh ingredients, so make sure to use fresh mint leaves; you can buy it, of course– or better yet, pick it straight from your own herb garden.

Note: Don’t over-muddle your mint or else it will make your drink bitter.

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AN ARGUMENT FOR PEBBLE ICE

While not totally necessary, the mojito is known for crushed ice. You can easily crush your own at home using a bag and mallet. A lot of people pick up ice from their local Sonic Drive-In, too. And if you’re really committed to pebble ice, you can invest in a GE ice machine and indulge all year round.

SIMPLE SYRUP

You’ll notice most of the recipes call for simple syrup, which is really easy to make at home! It’s just one part granulated sugar to one part water. Boil together, stirring until the sugar dissolves; then set aside to cool.

If you plan ahead, you can make a batch (one cup sugar, one cup water) and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks– then you’ll have it any time you want to make a cocktail!

One of the recipes below calls for pineapple syrup, which you can also make at home:

  • 1 cup water (hot)
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • ½ cup demerara sugar
  • 1 cup of pineapple chunks

DIRECTIONS:

Heat up your water to a boil. While the water heats, macerate the pineapple chunks and sugar together. Remove water from heat and add the macerated pineapple and sugar. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved; let the mixture steep for about 3-4 minutes to allow the heat from the water to caramelize the sugars from the pineapple. Once steeped, strain out all the pulp and particulates. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

This version of a pineapple syrup is one of my favorites to make; the complexity of it as well as the versatility makes it such a fun addition to many cocktails (also used in another one of my favorites, the Gentleman Buccaneer).

Photo copyright A Bar Above

 

YOU NEED A MUDDLER

Shameless plug: To make this particular drink– any variation of it– you’ll need a solid muddler and a Boston cocktail shaker. Be sure to head over to the A Bar Above shop and pick up both before you attempt these recipes.

 

THE HISTORY OF THE MOJITO

The mojito, like many other cocktails, did not originate with its name. Instead, it was nothing more than a tonic used medicinally to help with common diseases and ailments, ostensibly remaining nameless for most of its earlier use.

That is until an English Naval Officer by the name of Francis Drake dropped his salt-crusted anchor into the shore outside of Havana, Cuba. At the time, his ship was ripe with scurvy and dysentery.

Photo by Nathalie Andre via Unsplash.com

 

Eager to find a solution to their sickly inconveniences, a landing party went ashore and were introduced to a lovely concoction of aguardiente de caña (a harsher, earlier form of rum) mixed with lime, sugarcane juice, and mint.

As the crew found themselves recovering from their woes, they dubbed the elixir “El Draque” in honor of Drake himself, the man who sought refuge from the locals – despite, of course, being there to pillage them on behalf of the Queen of England. Good ol’ colonialism.

The concoction was always a cocktail either for medicinal purposes or to help wash down the gnarly swill that was aguardiente de caña. Yet, it was inevitable that it would ultimately transform over time to become more refined into the traditional Cuban cocktail known as the “mojito.”

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Oddly enough, the addition of soda water was among the transformations; it sought to lighten up the mixed drink, making it more refreshing and ultimately changing this rum cocktail into what we know and love today.

The cocktail became enshrined in the sea of classics-to-be during the pre-Prohibition and Prohibition era, when Havana saw a massive boom in casinos and nightlife.

As popularity swelled at home, it also increased here in the States (thanks in part to Ernest Hemingway, or at least some made-up legend regarding him and this particular drink). And as tourism expanded and grew over the years, so did the popularity of this cocktail.

Fast-forward to today, where it stands among the most widely-known and ordered classics worldwide, surpassing most boozy cocktails (much to many bartenders’ chagrin). Like so many mixed drinks, it exploded in popularity during Prohibition, paving the way for a near-infinite amount of renditions.

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MOJITO RECIPES

Despite it being time-consuming to make, it is a really neat cocktail to play with; there is just so much flexibility with what you can put in it. I’ve already mentioned the versatility of the mojito, so it’s only fair that I share some of my more fun recipes.

Note: I haven’t included a skinny mojito here, but we have a great skinny mojito recipe on the blog already– Be sure to check that out if you’re looking to cut some of the sugar!

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THE ORIGINAL MOJITO RECIPE: A CLASSIC MOJITO COCKTAIL

This traditional Cuban mojito is a fantastic summer cocktail without tons of fancy ingredients. Sans many other components, the sweet + tart flavor combination really shines in this classic mojito recipe.

Other than muddling, it’s pretty straightforward, so you could even prepare a pitcher of mojitos ahead of time.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 oz White Rum
  • ¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • 4 Mint Leaves
  • Club Soda – for the topper

DIRECTIONS:

Add mint to your cocktail shaker tin, lightly muddle, and then add all other ingredients except the club soda. Give it a light shake to mix, strain into a Collins glass, add pebble ice, and then top with a splash of club soda.

Garnish: Fresh Sprig of Mint and a Fresh Lime Wheel.

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THE NOJITO: A VIRGIN MOJITO RECIPE

Want a non-alcoholic mojito? It’s really easy to stay spirit-free by omitting the rum from the traditional mint mojito recipe.

To make your mojito mocktail more interesting, you can use a non-alcoholic spirit like Seedlip, put in additional mint leaves or extra lime slices, or muddle your fresh fruit of choice into the drink. You don’t want it to just be minty limeade after all! Follow all the same directions above.

Photo courtesy of DesignPickle/stock.adobe.com

 

STRAWBERRY MOJITO COCKTAIL

A spin on the classic drink, this strawberry version adds extra sweetness with the fresh fruit and vanilla bitters. There are plenty of berry variations, but this is one of my favorites.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 oz White Rum
  • ¾ oz Lime Juice – freshly squeezed
  • ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • 2 dashes of Vanilla Bitters
  • 1-2 Strawberries (fresh strawberries are best, but frozen strawberries will do in a pinch)
  • 4 Mint Leaves
  • Club Soda – for the topper

DIRECTIONS:

Muddle strawberries in a shaker tin, add mint, and give a light muddle. Combine all remaining ingredients (except soda) into a shaker tin, and give a light shake. Strain into highball or Collins cocktail glass. Add ice and top with soda.

Garnish: Strawberry Slice, Fresh Mint Sprigs, and Slice of Lime

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn via Unsplash

 

ISLAND GETAWAY

This pineapple mojito is a little different than the classic rum cocktail, featuring tropical flavors. It also skips the regular simple syrup and gets its sugar element from pineapple syrup instead.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 oz Cachaça
  • 1 oz Aged Rum
  • ¾ oz Lime Juice
  • ½ oz Pineapple Syrup
  • 4 Mint Leaves
  • Club Soda – topper
  • 1 Bar spoon of Fernet Branca Menthe

DIRECTIONS:

Lightly muddle mint leaves in a cocktail shaker tin, and then add spirits, lime juice, and syrup. Add ice and give a light shake. Strain out into Collins or highball glass. Add crushed ice, top the glass with soda water, and float the Fernet Branca on top.

Garnish: Mint Sprig and Pineapple Leaf

Photo courtesy of DesignPickle/stock.adobe.com

 

TROPIJITO: A LIGHT COCONUT MOJITO RECIPE

A spin on a coconut mojito, this is another tropical version of the Cuban classic; it mixes spices, mango, and a light coconut flavor for a refreshing cocktail that is sure to please your palate.

  • 1 ½ oz White Rum Agricole
  • ½ Velvet Falernum
  • ¾ oz Lime Juice
  • ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • 4 Mint Leaves
  • 2 Mango Chunks (1/2″)
  • Sparkling Coconut Water

DIRECTIONS:

Muddle the mango chunks in the shaker tin until at a pulp, then add mint leaves and lightly muddle again. Combine all remaining ingredients (except Sparkling Coconut Water), add ice and give a light shake. Strain into a Collins glass or highball, add fresh ice, and top with the Sparkling Coconut Water.

Garnish: Mint Sprig and Mango Slice

Photo courtesy of DesignPickle/stock.adobe.com

 

FROM TRADITIONAL MOJITO TO TROPICAL, WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?

I can’t wait to hear which version you prefer best. Do you have another mojito recipe you love? Leave me a comment or come over to the Craft Cocktail Club on Facebook to share your creation with our cocktail community.

And don’t forget to grab all the (best) bar tools you need to make these and a multitude of other cocktails. Head over to the shop and check out our A Bar Above barware. And until next time, happy mixing!