Simplistic, yet rather refreshing, the Mojito features quite a few different variations and styles of production. Originally from Cuba, the drink is a great summer time refresher.
The simplest way to describe the Mojito would be as a Rum Collins, made with mint (Jackson 194). But the drink is quite a bit more than that, at least history wise. Originally a farmers’ drink, the Mojito originates form Cuba, and has a history from the area surrounding Havana, most probably coming out of shared cultural knowledge between the South and the Havana slave traders, that knowledge being the mint julep (DeGroff 131). However, it was limited to only the wealthier until the late nineteenth century: prior to this, ice was a commodity that only the wealthy could afford to acquire on hand (Ibid). The drink was originally known as the Draque in the 19th century, and was made form aguardiente, which would later be changed to the more common and modern standard of rum (Fernandez)
Albeit the modern Mojito has its’ origins in the countryside, similar to a Caipirinha, the “origins of it” as a popular “cocktail” originate in more urban settings. The drink was first made popular at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, which is a place that Hemingway quite often frequented, and his activity helped to make the drink become popular (Ibid). Originally a grocery store, that restaurant transformed after the Second World War, becoming a haven for various bohemians and intellectuals (Ibid). The rise to popularity throughout Cuba was due in part to a method of production, similar to that used by Henry C. Ramos, which featured an assembly line style of cocktail production (Ibid). Upon the arrival of commercially available ice and soda water, the drink became available to the masses. Increasing in popularity, it was not readily available in America until after the 1960s, which was when Joe Baum served the drink at his pan-Latin restaurant La Fonda del Sol (DeGroff 131). Now a days, the drink can be found at everywhere, but usually it is a shell of its’ former glory, either not using fresh mint, or featuring mint that has been shaken or torn, which damages and diminishes the raw “mint” flavor sought from the mint in the drink (Ibid). When you overly bruise mint, you create a sort of bitter, astringent flavor, which is not really pleasing and for the most part, hinders the cocktail from appealing to quite a few people.
There are a few different varieties of mint. As such, just like other herbs, fruits, or even spirits, you want to be aware of what you are using, since they will have different characteristics which may cause something to work better or worse together with one another. The two main types of mint are spearmint and peppermint: spearmint, which is the most common has slight sweet flavors, while that of peppermint is somewhat fiery, or tangy compared to other types (Norman 70-73). However, sub categories of spearmint which may work well in a cocktail include Bowles’ mint, and Apple mint, though both of these have a slight “fur” and are not that appealing to the person observing the drink (Ibid 72-73). The other mint which would work extremely well would be Moroccan mint, which is a spicy, yet still sweet aroma, similar to a cross between peppermint and spearmint (Ibid 72). If you wanted to make the drink properly, you should probably be using yerbabuena which is a type of mint that varies from region to region throughout Latin America (Fernandez).
Concerning ice, many times you will see a Mojito made with crushed ice. A Mojito, being a Rum Collins, should be made with cubed ice. As Jerry Thomas states, “shaved ice should only be used when spirits form the principal ingredient of the drink, and no water is employed” (Thomas 14). Since a Mojito utilizes soda water, the beverage should use chunks, cubes, or large pieces of ice, to prevent over dilution. There is a variation on the cocktail known as a Mojito Criollo, which utilizes shaved / crushed ice, and actually replaces the lime juice with lemon juice (CocktailDB). As such, keep that in mind when you next make a Mojito without the cubed ice: cocktails, with minor differences, are actually variations, or completely different cocktails.
This drink is great in the summertime, is highly refreshing and delicious. The mint makes it something similar to that of a cooler, and the fact that it is in a highball glass over ice encourages the drink to be sipped rather than quaffed. With Lebanese, Greek, Moroccan or Hispanic foods, this drink would work really well thanks to similarities of flavors between mint and various other spices that go into the dishes. I see this as a drink to be sipped alongside a meal, more than anything else.
2 ounces light rum
1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Soda water (optional)
Taking the leaves from about two mint sprigs (or more, depending on taste), lightly press upon them at the bottom of a high ball glass while immersed in the lime juice and syrup. Fill the glass with cubed ice, and add in the light rum, stirring briefly. After this, top with up to 1 1/2 ounce soda water, giving one final stir, and garnish with a mint sprig.
CocktailDB: The Internet Cocktail Database. “Mojito Criollo.” CocktailDB.com. http://www.cocktaildb.com/recipe_detail?id=1513 (accessed May 10, 2010).
DeGroff, Dale. 2008. The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
Fernandez, Maria Elena. 2001. “Shake It Up, Baby: Cuban Cocktail Is Making a Splash” in the Los Angeles Times. August 12, 2001. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/aug/12/news/cl-33266 (accessed May 10, 2010).
Jackson, Michael. 1995. Michael Jackson’s Bar and Cocktail Companion: The Connoisseur’s Handbook. Originally published 1979. Philadelphia: Running Press.
Norman, Jill. 2002. Herbs and Spices: The Cook’s Reference. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.
Thomas, Jerry. 1887. Bartender’s Guide. Reprint of original. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald.