Bartender's Favourite Cocktail — All About The Mojito
We’re back with the third installment of the Bartender's Favourite cocktail feature! This segment, as always, showcases the best in the Irish trade and their go-to drinks, providing you with inspiration for your home bar or eventually post-Covid for your next night out!
In anticipation of National Mojito Day on the 11th July, we’re all about the mojito—and most importantly—how to make our own!
The mojito is a traditional Cuban highball often consisting of five ingredients: white rum, sugar (traditionally sugar cane juice), lime juice, soda water, and spearmint. The mojito has become a widely popular and much-loved summer cocktail due to its combination of sweetness, citrus, and herbaceous mint flavours.
But where did the mojito come from? One theory, like many other spirits and cocktails across history, points to its medicinal roots. This popular tale is that an associate of English privateer Sir Francis Drake invented the mojito in Havana in the 1500s. According to the story, his crew had been sent out to disrupt Spanish trade and were suffering from scurvy and dysentery. A group of men landed on Cuba’s shore and set off in search of help from the indigenous people. They came back with aguardiente de caña (translated to “burning water”, a crude form of rum made from sugar cane), which was swiftly turned into a palatable drink with lime and herbs to soften the sharpness of the spirit. Shortly after, a cocktail known as “El Draque,” named after Sir Francis Drake and made with similar ingredients, became popular in Cuba.
Other competing stories claim that the mojito was created by African slaves working in the fields of Cuba. It is thought that the slaves gave their aguardiente concoction the name “mojito” from the word “mojo,” which means “to cast a spell.” Another theory claims that the mojito was invented at Havana’s famous bar La Bodeguita del Medio, a favoured establishment of author Ernest Hemingway. Another theory is that the name mojito is simply a derivative of mojadito (Spanish for "a little wet") and mojo, a Cuban lime seasoning.
Fast-forward to modern times, and the mojito exploded in popularity, bolstered in part by Prohibition in the States. Havana became a drinking haven for those rich enough to cross the border seeking alcohol and they soon brought its popularity to the States. The mojito migrated from farms and working-class beaches to become a stable cocktail in many bars on the island, and soon, found its way around the world.
When preparing a mojito, fresh lime juice is added to sugar (or to simple syrup) and mint leaves. The mixture is then gently mashed with a muddler, just enough to bruise the leaves rather than shred them to release the essential oils. White rum is added and the mixture is briefly stirred to dissolve the sugar and to lift the mint leaves from the bottom for better presentation. Finally, the drink is topped with crushed ice and sparkling soda water. Mint leaves and lime wedges are used to garnish the glass.
Of course, certain bars or bartenders might prefer to alter the original recipe slightly. Angostura bitters are sometimes used to cut the sweetness of the mojito or icing sugar is often muddled with the mint leaves rather than cane sugar. Many establishments might use sugar syrup to control sweetness or lemon juice instead of fresh lime. A "virgin mojito" or "Nojito" is an alcohol-free version. The Cojito is another spin on the classic, made with coconut-flavoured rum. A dirty mojito calls for gold rum instead of white rum and to use raw sugar or demerara sugar to give the mojito a caramel-like flavour. A dark rum mojito, as the name suggests, calls for a dark rum to be used instead of white.
In Peru, there are mojito variations that are made by adding fruits like grapefruit, called "mojito de toronja", or with passionfruit, called "mojito de maracuyá". Other fruits can be found in alternative mojito recipes such as pears, raspberries, oranges, and strawberries.
We recently had a chat with Luke Crowley-Holland, General Manager of the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder about the mojito and his recommendations for making a top-class mojito.
“The mojito is one of my favourite cocktails of all time for a couple of reasons. I’m a big fan of rum in cocktails, something that is very in vogue at the moment. I love how simple the drink is; you literally need the glass and a long spoon. No shakers, no mixing glasses.
The drink screams ‘Cuba’. I love working with ingredients and concepts that are of the ’terroir’, and while this drink isn’t of our locality here in Kerry, it’s so Cuban you’re almost transported there when making it. You could imagine being in a beautiful, sun-soaked, part of that marvellous country, working with local limes, mint, and rum.
A top tip for a good mojito would be to not mash up your mint too much and save a nice sprig to go on top of the glass; to welcome our nose into the drink.”
Saison Rum Reserve is our recommendation as the key base for this cocktail. Jérome Tessendier who is famed for making superb Cognacs has applied his expertise to create this exclusive rum. Saison is a superb Caribbean rum that has been blended and aged French Limousin oak casks on the banks of the Charente River in France to give the spirit some extra spice and sappy oak flavours from the French oak. Perhaps a little dryer and oakier than some rums. Ideal for sipping straight or in your favourite cocktail.
Be sure to watch our video on how to make the perfect thirst-quenching Margarita with Luke Crowley Holland, General Manager from the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder HERE or by clicking on the image above!
Highball cocktail glass
12-15 spearmint leaves
50 ml of Saison Pale Rum
2 tsp Caster sugar
25 ml lime juice
100 ml Fever Tree Soda Water or mineral water
- Muddle the lime juice, sugar, and mint leaves in a small jug. Be sure to just bruise the mint leaves rather than shred them. Pour into a tall glass and add a handful of ice.
- Pour over the rum, stirring with a long-handled spoon.
- Top up with soda water, garnish with mint, and serve.
A great tasting cocktail if we may say so ourselves and one that is incredibly easy to make at home! The full list of ingredients and utensils are available for purchase at the Irish Drink Shop — an online drink shop that strives to deliver unusual, innovative drinks directly to your door. Be sure to browse our full range of rums, cocktail and bar equipment, and mixers on our site if you wish to mix up the recipe!
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