Everything You Need To Know About Mojitos | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Everything You Need To Know About Mojitos

Everything You Need To Know About Mojitos

Courtesy Max Pixel

1 serving

active: 
15 min

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The Mojito, a Cuban specialty, is a classic drink and one of the most delightful and fashionable hot-weather libations.

Once proclaimed to be the favorite of bad old Fidel himself, and was supposedly also a favorite of Hemingway—though I greatly doubt this as it’s much sweeter than his other known favorites and he never seems to have written about it anywhere—the Mojito (pronounced moe-Hee-toe) is nonetheless an enticing, refreshing, cooling and utterly delectable concoction.

Although it has the look and feel of something very modern and stylish, the mojito is basically a Cuban variation of the American mint julep. Where the julep is Southern, and so sometimes thought of as conservative and stuffy, the mojito is Latin, and is therefore considered to be hip, sultry and tropical.

Like the julep, the true pedigree of the mojito runs back quite a ways and its actual origins are similarly a tad obscure. The mojito’s antecedent can be found in a Cuban drink known as El Draque or Draquecito, which is a heady brew of Aguardiente de Cana, water, lime juice, sugar and Yerba Buena, sometimes also called Hierba Buena, a local Cuban mint. Aguardiente de Cana, or ‘firewater of the sugar cane,’ is simply raw, unaged, unfiltered, and haphazardly made rum.

The appellation Draque was named either by, or for, the 16th-century British privateer and explorer Sir Francis Drake. Other accounts maintain the drink was invented, or perhaps just favored by, African slaves working the sugar cane fields. Based on this version, it is thought by some that the later developed Mojito is a play on “Mojo,” meaning “to place a little spell” in some unspecified African dialect.

On the other hand, “mojo” is a Cuban Spanish word for “sauce,” and “mojar” is a Spanish verb “to make wet” or “moisten.” Since “dry” is another way of saying “without alcohol,” and since the earliest known printed recipe for this comes from a 1929 Cuban cocktail book, the name Mojito might just as simply have been a playful Cuban name for a refined version of a long popular local drink that slaked the thirst of a great many Anglo tourists escaping Prohibition.

As with the mint julep, there are a great many fiercely contested recipe variations to slug through. Consider My Mojito recipe:

Ingredients

3oz white rum (my house brand is Bacardi Silver Rum, but I also enjoy Flor de Caña 4 Year Extra Seco, Havana Club Anejo Blanco and Appleton White from Jamaica; it’s really a matter of taste)

1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 oz. simple syrup (a 1:1 ratio of sugar dissolved in water)

8-10 fresh broad mint leaves (Spearmint is preferred, but peppermint will do — Yerba Buena should be hunted down for those who are into that sort of thing).

2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Soda water

Steps
  1. Traditionally one muddles the solids with the syrup, but I prefer this:
  2. Put the liquid ingredients (minus the bitters and soda) and the mint into your cocktail shaker
  3. Fill with hard, cracked ice
  4. Shake it like you mean it for 12-15 seconds
  5. Strain into a Collins or highball glass filled two-thirds of cracked ice
  6. Add 2-3 ounces of soda water into the cocktail shaker and stir briefly to absorb a bit more of that mint flavor and to get cold, then strain into your mojito
  7. Add a few splashes of Angostura bitters, stir, garnish with one to three sprigs of fresh mint (bruise the stem a bit so as to further release the mint’s essence into the drink), throw in a small stirring straw and serve

This is to my tastes, discover your own. Learn to adjust on the fly—the tartness of the limes, the strength of the mint and the robustness of the booze, each may require adjustment. You can even float a teaspoon of Demerara rum on top for added depth. Go wild…though, of course, drink responsibly. L’Chaim!

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