Mixology 101: Mojito
Muddled, not stirred. By Jay Chooi.
You may never have met a Cuban, but just as with Cuban music and food, you can find a Mojito in a number of modern restaurants, bars and clubs. Yet, Cubans were generally oppressed prior to the revolution. After the 1960s, due to a previous lack of social and political freedom in their country, their culture began to flourish. Like the Mojito, it is a special mix of the sweet, the sour, the bright and the fragrant; another vivid shade of the world’s culture.
Cuba, pirates, and tropical bastardy
The birthplace of the Mojito is allegedly Havana, Cuba in the 1580s. Born El Draque, early forms of the drink were left, clad in mint, on the thirsty shores of the island by visiting British pirate Captain Francis Drake. Ye ole Mojito – then featuring the liquor aguardiente, father of rum – made a name for itself in Cuba. It swept the globe, enjoyed by twenty-first century drinkers in the biting (air-conditioned) cold relishing tropical fantasies. Highball or cocktail? Now there’s a debate. While really closer to a cooler, we think that the Mojito sits right up there with the Martinis and the Manhattans.
You’d be surprised at who drank the Mojito. Brigitte Bardot, Nat King Cole, and countless other celebrities were avid drinkers, but none more so than Ernest Hemmingway, a literary drunk. On a plaque in La Floridita, his favourite watering hole in Havana, hangs the signed quote: ‘My Mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my Daiquiri in the Floridita.’ We won’t bother you with what he really meant, but after one of these, you ought to say ‘you liar, you Apple Martini, you.’
Muddle, pestle, pound
One of the easier drinks to impress with, a good classic Mojito is made with two ounces of white rum, two teaspoons of sugar, two large sprigs of spearmint, a couple of lime wedges, club soda, and crushed ice. Place mint, sugar and lime in a tall glass, and then muddle. You can leave in or throw out the juiced lime peel; it’s a matter of aesthetics really. Add crushed ice and rum, stir, add club soda and stir again before garnishing with mint sprig and lime wedge. The key, aside from quality ingredients, lies in gentle muddling – instead of grinding it to bits – to release the essential oils of the fruit and herb.