In celebration of International Mojito Day, here is a little bit of history behind one of the world’s most popular cocktails.
Of the three classic cocktails that use mint, the Mojito is easily the most popular, in fact we sold over 50,000 of them last year and it is probably one of the most recognized cocktails in the world. Then there is the Southside, which uses gin in stead of rum, but probably the grandfather of them all is the mint julep, which uses the quintessential all-American spirit, Bourbon.
Birth of a Cuban Classic
Picture the scene – it’s mid-nineteenth century Cuba and a wealthy sugar cane plantation owner and his American visitor are on the veranda with a dying thirst. The American wants a julep but –the horror– there is no whiskey! Instead the staff whip up a version using the plentiful local rum, which goes down very nicely. Its a nice idea but these things don’t really happen in such a Eureka moment! Over time you would have started to see drinks that resembled the Julep being made with rum.
It is also possible that a local drink called a Drake was the inspiration. It is a mixture of rum, lime and mint, and the addition of ice and soda it make a recognizable Mojito. Other theories suggest that mojo, a local marinade on made from lime, was the inspiration for the cocktail.
However it may have started, the Mojito served in Cuba bears little resemblance to the drink you will find on most cocktail menus, being a much lighter, soda-driven drink with cubed instead of crushed ice. We prefer our own recipe with crushed ice and brown sugar. We will still show you both recipes and you can decide for yourselves.
The Hemingway effect
The popularity of Cuba as a holiday destination for thirsty American tourists during prohibition introduced US drinkers to this refreshing beverage. It was also a favourite of Ernest Hemingway, one of my favourite writers and a man whose appetite for the amber liquid was almost as famous as his staccato writing style. So particular was he about his drinks he would only drink certain cocktails in certain bars:
“My Mojito in La Bodeguita and my Daiquiri in La Floritdita”
By the 1960s it had started to make an appearance on cocktail menus in the States, where it began its metamorphosis from light, spritzy refresher to full-flavoured, gutsy supercocktail.
It’s more recent popularity was given a boost by another literary legend James Bond, who swapped his usual dry martini for a Mojito in 2002’s Die Another Day, in a scene our male (and more red-blooded) readers might remember better for the slightly soggy entrance of Halle Berry.
Back to Bath
And so to Bath, where for the first time I’m going to reveal our recipe for a Mojito. But first a note on rum: please make it Cuban! This legendary Cuban cocktail deserves a rum that is still made in Cuba. It is likely that some of the first Mojitos were made using Bacardi, and those served in the bars of Havana will use a light style of rum; but only Havana Club is still made in Cuba so we recommend you use this iconic rum in your Mojitos too.
Mojito – Sub 13 style
50ml Havana a Club Especial Rum
Half a fresh lime, diced
8 to 10 fresh mint leaves
3 brown sugar cubes or 3 heaped tsp brown sugar
Dash sugar syrup (optional)
Dash lime juice (optional)
25ml freshly made soda water, or from a bottle.
Put the lime pieces into a large glass, followed by the mint leaves and then the sugar. Add all the other incidents except the rum. Using a muddler or a rolling pin crush everything until the sugar has broken down. Add the rum, fill the glass with crushed ice and churn with a barspoon for about five or six seconds. Top off with more crushed ice, and finish with straws and a nice sprig of mint.
- It’s a good idea to have some lime juice and sugar syrup handy to adjust the drink to your own taste and to account for any differences in juiciness of the limes.
- You can make crushed ice without an ice crusher by putting some very cold, dry ice cubes into a clean tea towel and smashing with a rolling pin, but try to use only the larger flakes as the small ones will over dilute your drink.
- It’s important to fill the glass with ice to keep the drink cold and prevent it melting too much, which again will dilute your drink.
- If you don’t have a barspoon you can use a swizzle stick or a sundae spoon to churn everything together.
Mojito – Cuban style
50ml Havana Club 3YO rum
One sprigs of mint, leaves picked
25ml fresh lime juice
25ml sugar syrup
Top with soda water, about 50ml
Slap the mint leaves to release the oils, add the remaining ingredients with cubed ice and stir. Serve with straws and another mint sprig for garnish. If you prefer a little more intense mint flavour you can shake very briefly with cubed ice before adding the soda.