Featured Drink: Mojito

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In order to understand the mojito a little better, you have to take a trip south to the birthplace of this modern classic: Havana, Cuba. In reality, your trip has to be more of an imagined or virtual trip, since most people won’t ever get an opportunity to visit this unique place in the current political climate. Nevertheless, you can still feel like you’re in the vibrant city of Havana when you sip this refreshing and tasty cocktail.

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to make an amazing mojito, no matter which part of the world you reside in. When Cuba starts to become more open for travel, maybe one day you could take an adventure finding out about the birthplace of this popular beverage.

History

The story goes that the drink was originally known as “El Drake,” as it was named after Sir Francis Drake during his seafaring voyages around the Caribbean. During one of his journeys, his crew was suffering from a terrible bout of dysentery and scurvy, one of the many side effects of being at sea for several months.

A few of his healthier crewmembers went ashore to Havana, searching for some remedies for the sick left behind. The sailors came back with local holistic medications that some of the natives swore by — a primitive rum called aguardiente de caña, lime juice and sugar. Mixed together, the sweet tasting brew allowed some of the sailors to begin to recover.

Name Origins

While this drink based on Drake’s search for relief was similar to the modern mojito, it still wasn’t called by that name for many years. Some people believe that the name came from the spicy mojo seasoning that has always been popular in Cuba. Others believe that the name is derived from the Spanish word for wet, mojado. It’s even possible the origin of the name was from the mojo marinades that used lemon and lime juices brought over from the Creole culture.

Hemingway’s Drink

Of course, most people associate this popular drink with its most famous supposed supporter, Ernest Hemingway. While there are many stories out there that detail Hemingway’s love affair with this drink, there is little proof written down that he actually named the mojito his favorite. Despite this fact, there are several local establishments in Havana that have capitalized on the fame of the reclusive writer. With advertisements promising the presence of Hemingway sipping mojitos at the bar long ago, these small shops have found a way to attract book lovers and beyond to try their mixtures.

The Mojito
1 ½ ounces of White Rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 sprig of fresh mint
2 teaspoons of sugar or 1 ½ ounces of simple syrup
Soda Water to top off

To make your mojito, start with a collins or highball glass. Put your sprig of mint in the bottom of the glass and carefully muddle it while adding the sugar or simple syrup. Once you get the desired consistency, slowly add the lime juice and continue to muddle everything together. Add a splash of soda water to your mixture and then fill your glass with crushed ice.

Finally, add the white rum over the ice while your drink begins to cool. When you’re ready to serve, garnish with a small piece of mint or a slice of lime. Zingy and crisp, this drink fits the bill on a hot day outside or a cool summer night.

The Right Mint

To get the exact flavor that this drink is known for, you need to make sure you buy the right kind of mint. Some people make the mistake of accidentally using spearmint, which gives the drink a strange icy flavor that can even clash with your choice of rum. What most people prefer for their mojito mint is a plant called yerba buena.

You have to be careful about the specific variety that you are purchasing if you plan to make a mojito. When in doubt, do the smell test. The best mint for a mojito is going to have a strong citrus smell, whereas spearmint may smell like a piece of gum.

So until the possibility of Cuban travel becomes a reality, which may be soon if current news reports are any indication, you may just have to find a little piece of Havana solely in the mojito. This fun summer drink can help you keep your cool as the temperature rises.

  

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