buckle your swashes; here comes the mojito!

Emma's birthday mojito! (photo by Marja FB)
Who’d have thought that a cocktail that may have been inspired by the notorious pirate, Sir Francis Drake in 16th century and a pick-me up for Cuban slaves on the sugar plantations in the 18th and 19th centuries (and god knows they would have needed one) could become such an iconic symbol of civilised drinking in the 21st century. 

While the mojito might be the drink of choice for the young, trendy, urban hipster, its history is anything but. When Sir Francis Drake plundered the Caribbean for treasure to woo his beloved queen, his fellow pirate and cousin, Richard Drake popularised a drink made of locally found ingredients, using a primitive form of rum, cane sugar, lime and mint. He called it “El Draque” or “The Dragon” in honour of Sir Francis, which over centuries became the “mojito” – "a little bit of something wet"!

The earliest mojito recipes are from the 1930s and by the 1940s, it was one of the most popular cocktails in fashionable Havana, where it was drunk by the celebrities of the day from Marilyn Monroe to Louis Armstrong. It is said of Ernest Hemmingway that he was rather fond of a sneaky mojito, saying “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita” – although somehow the mojita seems a little sweet for the swaggering and bullish Mr. Hemmingway.

Prep Time: 10 min
Skill level: Easy
Serves: 1 highball glass (all for me!)

ingredients:
1 tsp white sugar
juice of 1 lime (or more to taste)
a handful of mint sprigs, preferably spearmint (Use the stalks as well as they add to the spicy mint flavour) Keep a few aside to garnish.
crushed ice
chilled soda water
50ml dry white rum (Havana Club Anjeo Blanco Silver Dry is the brand of choice)
a dash of Angostura Bitters (optional)
fresh lime slices, to serve

directions:
  1. Put the sugar in the bottom of a glass and pour the lime juice over to just cover it.
  2. Add 2 long sprigs of mint.
  3. Muddle (i.e. gently crush) the mint with the juice and sugar. (Don’t do this too hard or you will end up with a mint purée!)
  4. Add ice to the top of the glass; fill the glass two-thirds full with soda water.
  5. Add the rum.
  6. Stir and add a dash of Angostura bitters.
  7. Top with slices of lime and a sprig of fresh mint.

tips:
  • Angostura Bitters has become a modern addition to the mojito - it helps ameliorate some of the sweetness.
  • Cherry Mojito: for a naughty cocktail party nibble, inject cherry tomatoes with the mojito mix (excluding the soda water) although your guests may get quietly pickled!

a trip around the drinks cabinet:
Mojito Fidel – a mojito topped with beer rather than soda water
Mojito Criollo No 1 – a mojito made with lemon juice rather than lime juice
Old Cuban – a mojito made with Angostura Bitters and Veuve Clicquot champagne
Draque – the original mojito devised by Sir Francis Drake’s deputy, made with aguardiente (the primitive forerunner of rum)
Dirty Mojito – a mojito made with gold rum rather than white rum

dos and dont’s:
Do: the Macarena (Just kidding!) Do the Rumba!
Don’t: use dark rum – it ruins the flavour
Do: use soda water or a good quality mineral water
Don’t: use lemonade (it will make the drink too sickly)
Do: use crushed ice. It melts faster and helps to dilute the strong alcohol flavour. You get a better tasting drink. (Think of water as being a flavour-enhancer!)
Don’t: over-muddle or crush the mint. It ends up brown and sludgy
Do: drink during a long, warm, lazy day, at a summer barbecue or during a hot summer’s evening
Don’t: drink on a cold winter’s night
Do: sip slowly, savouring the aromatic flavour
Don’t: neck it like it’s going to be your last day on earth

tasting notes:

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