The cocktail now known as the Mojito started life with a different name. The 'Draque' was a popular drink among the sugar cane and tobacco plantations in the centre of Cuba for many years. Then in the 19th Century with the appearance of charcoal-filtered rum, the drink was transformed into what we know today as the Mojito and by the 1920s it was fast becoming Cuba's national drink.
So what's in it?
Mainly rum. After all, it does come from Cuba! However, a really great Mojito shouldn't be too strong; the mix of mint1, lime and sugar should mellow the taste and give it a real smoothness.
Where's the best place to drink one?
Anywhere! They make an excellent cold drink for those relaxed summer afternoon barbecues and long lazy days. It's the same sort of drink as a gin and tonic or a Pimm's, but with a characteristic smoothness we might expect from the Caribbean. If you're after the real deal though, you need to get on a plane. The number one place to buy a Mojito has got to be Havana's La Bodeguita del Medio2. For years after it opened in the 1940s it was the hangout for Havana's bohemians. This would have not done much to its reputation until 'El Papa' came along; La Bodeguita became world famous because of the author Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway spent a lot of time on Cuba and while he lived on the island La Bodeguita was one of his favourite haunts. He is even reported to have said:
Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita3.That said, La Bodequita has fast become a bit of a tourist trap and some of the best Mojitos in Cuba come from the smaller, more intimate little bars that dot the island.
How to Make a Mojito
- Three fresh mint sprigs - the best sprigs are slightly 'woody' from old established plants rather that from the young plants where they are 'greener'
- Two tablespoons of sugar - white cane sugar, or better yet some sugar cane
- One whole lime - lime is best but half a lemon will do
- Chilled soda water - it should be really cold, just above freezing point
- Ice cubes
- A shot of white silver dry rum - Havana Club Anjeo Blanco Silver Dry if you want some real authenticity but Bacardi Carta Blanca works well; however any white rum will do
Place two of the sprigs of mint into a tall glass using a spoon and lightly crush them around the inside of the glass; not too hard though, just enough to release the mint flavours.
Add the sugar and the juice of half a lime. Give it a quick stir and fill the glass with ice.
Next, add the shot of rum (remember the shots are often quite generous in Cuba) then fill to the top with soda water and stir.
Finally, take the last sprig of mint and roughly rip the leaves off, use them as a garnish with a slice of lime to top it off, sit back and enjoy.
Being quite an old cocktail there are a number of alternative recipes about; a favourite is to replace the white rum with dark rum; the better the rum, the nicer the end result. If you try this method brown sugar tends to suit the drink more than white sugar. Other alternatives that work well are to use citrus flavour white rums or to add a dash of bitters at the end of the mix; again try to use Angoustura Bitters from Trinidad and Tobago for that authentic Caribbean feel. Finally try different juices instead of the normal lime or lemon. Other citrus fruits4 are the obvious choice here but passion fruit and pineapple also work. Just remember, whatever you do always use fresh mint as it tastes so much better.