There’s more than one recipe for the Mojito. I even posted a different one a while back to accompany a fine article I wrote about simple syrup. It’s a refreshing summer drink and a great way to hide some rum inside a few mint leaves, lime and sugar. So, I figured it was about time I featured it as the Drink of the Week.
It’s not my favorite cocktail, but a lot of people love it, and why wouldn’t they? Rum, sugar, lime, mint—what’s not to love? I suppose you could consider the Mojito a cross between a Julep and a Daiquiri, but by that logic, every cocktail is just a combination of something else. I was going to get into some of the historic details about this Cuban classic, but I decided plenty has been written about that elsewhere. So, I thought I’d focus on the drink’s construction and some of the techniques you use when you make it properly.
2 oz white rum
.5 oz lime juice
1 tsp. superfine sugar
3-5 mint leaves
club soda to top
Build the Mojito in a tall glass. Add the lime juice and the sugar. Muddle the sugar so it dissolves. Add the mint leaves and gently press them against the inside of the glass with your muddler to release the oils. Fill the glass with cracked ice. Add the rum and top with club soda.
The Mojito is usually constructed as a “built” drink, meaning that you make it directly in the glass in which it is served. A tall glass is traditional, but it helps if your slender glass is somewhat petite. A smaller Collins is a fine choice. The problem with a glass that is too large is that your club soda will over-dilute the drink when you try to bring it to the rim. You can actually use whatever glass you have available as long as you are aware of the water you are adding at the end. I found this gorgeous antique goblet with a lovely etched floral pattern and realized it was perfect for this, or for fizzes and sours. The thin walls only took a moment to chill (something to think about for built cocktails) and the footed design lets you hold it by the stem keeping your hot hands away from the bowl.
Once you are confident with the glass you are going to use, you can start the assembly process. Don’t go leaping for the ice just yet. You want to dissolve your sugar first, and since sugar doesn’t readily mix with alcohol, you will need to use the lime juice and your muddler to get the process started. A shortcut would be to just use simple syrup. That’s fine, just make sure you adjust your sweet and sour ratio to suit your own taste depending on the strength of your simple syrup.
Next, add your mint leaves. You really don’t need that many. Rub a few leaves against the inside of the glass with your muddler. Don’t overdo it. Mint will taste bitter if you work it too hard, so don’t try to crush it into little bits. With the sour mixture established and the mint ready to go, you are almost done. Now you can add your ice. I like to use cracked ice. The broken pieces cool the drink faster, and because this cocktail is not shaken, the faster dilution of smaller ice will cut the burn from the rum. Pour the rum over the ice, then top up with soda adding no more than a couple of ounces. Give it a stir to incorporate the sweet, sour and bubbles. If you wish, you can add a sprig of mint for a garnish. You can also drop in the half shell from your squeezed lime if you have room.
As simple as it is to build the Mojito, there are plenty of wrong ways to do it. For instance, some people think the muddler is supposed to be used over the ice. They will throw everything into a glass and try to mash it all up right through the ice chunks. If that’s how you learned to make a Mojito (or any muddled cocktail), you are doing it wrong. The muddler is not to be used through ice. Use it directly on the sugar, or the mint, or whatever needs to be muddled. Ice will only get in the way and decrease the tool’s effectiveness.
Another mistake people commit is abusing the mint. Don’t do it. It’s tempting, especially if you enjoy the Gin Basil Smash, to really get in there and grind away at those leaves. Extracting the flavor and color from basil is one thing, but mint will become bitter if you go at it too strongly. Gently rubbing the leaves or even just tearing them is enough handling to release the flavor.
You can’t make a good Mojito without fresh lime juice. It has been a while since I have pushed this issue, but come on, are you really going to make one of these with Rose’s or some other bottled substitute? For heaven’s sake, don’t use a sour mix. Of course, you could choose to add a few items. I have heard muddling some chunks of watermelon can bring wonderful results. While you’re at it, why not try cherries, blackberries or strawberries? The variations you can create by just dropping in a few pieces of fruit are endless. And if you can add fruit, you might as well float some dark rum on top, or better yet some overproof Demerara. Come to think of it, I guess I do like the Mojito after all.