Ah… Summer. Yes, it finally seems like summer after the beautiful Victoria Day long weekend we just had. Time to get out and enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. It is officially okay to wear white again – at least until Labour Day – and time to hit the patios across the city.
As I opened our own patio and deck at home, I was excited at the thought of eating meals outside and lounging on the patio, sipping cool drinks as the sun set. Work completed and in need of a break, I decided to make my favourite summer cocktail. As I sat on my patio, the warm sun upon my skin, I sipped this entrancing drink feeling happy, relaxed and then…inspired! I realized that my blog post was due in a few short days and I had not even begun to consider what I would write. Drink in hand, I now had my answer. Call it an Ernest Hemmingway moment if you will. I knew what to write. I would share a secret with you…the recipe to my favourite summertime cocktail, the Mojito.
A Mojito (pronounced mo-HEE-toe) is one of Cuba’s oldest cocktails. Some accounts say that the drink was created in the 19th century by slaves working in the sugar cane fields. However, Bacardi, a popular Cuban rum company, traces the drink’s roots to 1586. It is said that it was invented by Richard Drake, an associate of Sir Francis Drake, whose pirates came to Cuba in search of gold. Originally the drink was called El Draque and was made with aguardiente (a forerunner of rum). In the mid-1800s, rum was substituted for the aguardiente and the name was eventually changed to Mojito. Apparently the name Mojito was derived from the African word “mojo”, which means “to cast a spell”. After a couple of these smooth cocktails, you will easily succumb to its magic.
Now I must confess that I am a recent fan of the drink. I had never had a Mojito until 3 years ago when I was invited to participate in a Mojito making contest at a Havana Nights Party hosted by a friend. Being the outgoing gal that I am, and not usually one to shy from a challenge, I enthusiastically said “Yes”. Of course, I had no idea how to make a Mojito; so here I was 1 hour before the party, googling and running to the store for supplies. After thorough research and much sampling I came up with what I think is the perfect Mojito.
- 10-12 fresh mint leaves (depending on leaf size)
- 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
- 2 tablespoons simple syrup (my preference) or raw granulated sugar, or sweeten to taste
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 1 ½ fluid ounces white rum (my preference is Havana Club)
- A dash of Angostura bitters (can be purchased in grocery stores)
- 1/2 cup club soda
- mint and lime to garnish
Note: Simple syrup is equal parts raw granulated sugar and water boiled down or microwaved to dissolve the sugar. Make this ahead and let it cool before using.
To start, let me say that this drink is best served in a Collins glass and you will need a muddler. What is a muddler you ask? A muddler is a bartender’s tool, used like a pestle to mash or muddle fruits, herbs, and/or spices in the bottom of a glass to release their flavor. If you have a muddler which has a smooth bottom, it is best to use the raw, granulated sugar to aid in the muddling and releasing of the mint essence from the leaves. The disadvantage of using the raw, granulated sugar is that it does not dissolve as easily or blend as well as the syrup and therefore can sink to the bottom of the drink, making it less sweet. If your muddler has points or teeth on it, it is best to use the simple syrup.
Place mint leaves and 2 lime wedges in a sturdy glass. Muddle the lime and mint together, bruising the mint, not shredding it. Next add 1 more lime wedge and simple syrup. Muddle again to release lime juice. Fill glass almost to top with ice and pour rum over ice. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Top glass off with club soda and add a sprig of mint and a wedge of lime to garnish.
Note: If using raw, granulated sugar add it in the first step before the first muddling.
There are many variations to this drink, don’t be afraid to experiment. I would love to hear your favourite versions. Please feel free to comment with your ideas. Until then you can find me on my patio, listening to some hot Latin music, sipping on my Mojito (feeling its mojo), and perhaps dancing a little…