The Magnificent Mojito: History and Recipe
Many people enjoy drinking fun cocktails during the warm weather. It's a time to relax, unwind, and enjoy the company of good friends and a great drink. One of my summer favorites is the mojito (pronounced mo-HEE-toe), which has become very popular over the last few years. It's easy to make and is quite refreshing, as well. You might say that it's a Cuban version of a mint julep. The drink also has an interesting and varied history.
Supposedly, the drink's name, "mojito," comes from the African word "mojo," which mean "to place a spell." But Africa does not get to claim the mojito as its own drink - that right belongs to Cuba where many claim it was crafted by slaves working in sugar cane fields in the late 1800s. Others say that in fact Sir Francis Drake takes honors for creating the mojito as far back as the 1500s. Legend has it that English pirate Sir Richard Drake prepared the first version of the drink using aguardiente (a primitive version of rum). He mixed it with some sugar, lime and mint, and there he had an early version of today's popular drink. According to the story the drink was originally called "El Draque" (or "The Dragon" after Drake's boss Sir Francis). The mojito made its way to Cuba when these pirates landed there on treasure hunting expeditions through the Caribbean and Latin America. It was originally consumed for medicinal purposes. Once rum replaced the aguardiente, the mojito was born.
Which of these tales is true? I am not sure. But a great cocktail deserves a great story! And speaking of stories, one of America's most prominent storyteller's, Ernest Hemingway, is known to have been a big fan of the mojito and drank them at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana as well as in Key West, Florida.
So how does one mix up this potant potable? After trying several different mojito recipes, as well as pre-made mixes, I have devised this one which I use at home:
2 oz. light rum
1-2 oz. lime juice (depending on your taste)
2 tsp. superfine sugar (you can also use confectioner's sugar)
2-3 mint leaves
club soda or seltzer water
lime slice and mint sprigs for garnish
Lightly muddle (that is, gently smash up) the mint and sugar with a splash of soda water in a mixing glass until the sugar is dissolved and you can smell the mint. Pour the lime juice into the glass, add the rum and pour into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Give it a few shakes and then strain into a collins glass. Top with soda water or seltzer water, garnish with a lime slice and a mint sprig. Serve.
But don't let a recipe limit you - experiment a little and try to make your own favorite version. I know someone who prefers to use spiced rum instead of light rum. I've seen mojito gift sets that come with a bottle of dark rum. Many recipes also call for simple syrup (which is made by heating 1 part sugar with 1 part water until dissolved). I've also heard of people adding a dash of Angostura bitters to cut down on the sweetness of the cocktail. However you chose to make it, be sure to enjoy responsibly!