I first tasted a Mojito in Havana, Cuba while staying at the Hotel Nacional. I saw one handed to the couple sitting next to us at the pool and asked the waiter what it was. It turns out to be something of the national drink there. There’s nothing like the light and refreshing taste of a Mojito when you’re out in the hot sun.
I had the opportunity on my crazy month long Caribbean trip to try Mojitos at three places in Cuba, once in New Orleans at Emeril’s NOLA (the best I’ve ever had), and have taken to making them here at home. The trick that set NOLA’s apart is that you have to thoroughly bruise the mint leaves to release all of their flavor. The “muddler” referred to below can simply be the back of a spoon, and will help to accomplish the same effect. It also helps to let the drink sit for a little while, as it becomes more minty that way. Different tastes will desire differing amounts of sugar versus lime as well. Finally, they seem to taste better when drunk from bottom to top with a straw rather than top to bottom by sipping.
Hotel Nacional Pool, Havana, Cuba
Here’s Bob, smoking a Havana (Montecristo No. 2) poolside, minutes before tasting his first Mojito!
The Mojito is very light and refreshing, and is prepared as follows:
|Ingredients, per drink:
· 2 ounces light rum
· 1 ounce lime juice
· 3 teaspoons sugar
· Fresh Mint
· Soda Water
|Pull the mint leaves from the stems and chop up the leaves.
Place sugar, and mint in a mortar and pestle. Work the mixture into an almost-paste, grinding the juices out of the leaves and into the sugar. This gives the most minty taste.
Take a pitcher, and pour the rum into it. I usually don’t measure, and just pour rum as though the pitcher were an imaginary big glass I’m mixing up a rum and coke in.
Add the sugar/mint mix on top of that, and then pour in the lime juice. Stir. If you manage to dissolve all of the sugar, you will need to add more sugar. If you want something that looks a little fancier, you can skip the store bought lime juice and fill the pitcher with lime halves after squeezing the juice first.
I leave this mixture steeping in the pitcher to get all the mint flavor in, for about 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, put ice in glasses, fill halfway from the pitcher, top off with soda water (tonic will work in a pinch), and garnish with a wedge of lime. For the squeamish, you can strain the mint leaves out. The Cubans just chew and swallow them.
Special thanks to my Father-in-law, the Chemical Engineer, for suggesting the mortar and pestle, as well as straining the mint leaves.
Mojito as Canvas
I was in a bar one time and chatting with the bar tender who had made me a wonderful Mojito. I was asking for his secrets and he let me know that among Latino bar tenders, the Mojito was a canvas, much as the Martini has been a canvas for so many. Ever since that time, I have always been on the lookout for interesting variations.
One of the easiest is a mango-infused mojito. Simply use Parrot Bay (or similar) mango-infused rum instead of whatever rum you are used to using. The exotic mango flavor goes well with the mojito!