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The Magnificent Mojito: History and Recipe

Updated on May 30, 2007

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:

Mojito

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!

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      Christina 9 years ago

      Mmmm, mojitos! There is a restaurant in Arlington, VA that makes awesome mojitos. They garnish the drink with mint and a sliver of real sugar cane. I love sucking on the cane once the drink is gone. Yummy!

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      treecloud 9 years ago

      i heard mojito is tranlated from spanish and means "little wet man"...could that be true?

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      Carol Bancroft 9 years ago

      @ treecloud: I looked it up and found this: "Mojito is the dimunitive form of mojado. It might be roughly translated as so: mojito - a little wet/ mojado - wet" So I guess it could, but it's not something I'd heard before you mentioned it. But it's possible! I don't think anyone really knows the true origin of the word.

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      Steven Gasperino 9 years ago

      Sounds pretty close to me... take Taco Bell's pseudo-Spanish as an example. Gordita roughly translates to 'little fat lady', because 'gordo/gorda' is the adjective for 'fat', '-ita/-ito' is the diminuitive form, and the -a ending makes it a feminine term. That may or may not be what Los Cubanos were thinking of when they named it, however...

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      Sandra 9 years ago

      Its hard to find a place that makes great mojitos. Does anyone have any suggestions where to go find one in San Antonio TX?

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      Tanya 5 years ago

      Mojito is my new faqvorite summer drink. I now grow my own "mojito cuban mint" in my herb garden. Mojito is easy, cool, refreshing and I usually have more than one. That makes me very, very, happy!

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      johnnydiablo 5 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Wow, really great article on the history of the Mojito. I used this article, among several others, for research for a recipe for Mojitos. Keep up the brilliant work!

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