February 11th, 2008
Mojito. Not too long ago, I discovered this refreshing, minty, sweet, ice cold cocktail. In a pursuit of perfection, I have spent countless hours on a quest for something to satisfy every taste bud in my mouth. As a result, I found this classic Cuban cocktail and have since made it my summer beverage of choice. Don't get me wrong, I have many favorite adult beverages, but we will save that for another post.
I know some of you are thinking, why this summer lush in middle of February? Yesterday in celebration of couple of friends' birthdays, we decided to try out a Cuban restaurant on the Coast Highway. It was a very warm winter day, even for San Diego's standards. The smell of the food was permeating, as was the live Cuban music in the background. The company was great, so naturally the only thing that can enhance the mood even more would be a mojito. It seemed to be the perfect place for the perfect drink. However, what I got was a mojito suitably lavish on the lime and the mint but a sub par on flavor. Perhaps it was the [bad] luck of the draw, so I ordered another while singing in my head "Wish I was a baller, wish I was taller..."thinking that my luck would change. But to no avail; something was not right and I was baffled. Cubans are prided on their exotic creations and spicy girls. Who made these drinks? Joe Schmoe? It's not like I am ordering this drink at a dance club or a sports bar; there is no big line at the bar so I shouldn't have to worry about the bartender lacking on the dose of love being put into the muddling process. I tip for more TLC Papi. I mean this is a traditional Cuban restaurant and the food was great so the last thing I expected was a disappointment on the mojito.
The Basics of Mojito
A traditional mojito is made of five ingredients: rum, mint, sugar, lime juice, and club soda. Muddling is a gentle but thorough bruising of fruit and the herb with sugar at the bottom of a glass. This process helps to release juice and the essential oils. The combination of the refreshing citrus, the sweetness, and the strong mint flavor is used to mask the potency of the rum. To many, it may seem like an intricate cocktail to create but really, it’s quite simple and worth all that extra effort as it produces a great reward.
How to Muddle A Mojito
You can use a muddler, a pestle or even the end of a rolling pin for this procedure. Push down the muddler with a twisting action, press firmly but slowly and in a controlled fashion. Add all the pressure you want, but don't break down the ingredients into mush or bits. Crushing, smashing, piercing, or pounding is not needed; think bruise and press. Not enough muddling will leave you with a drink that seems like a waste of time and too much may release bitterness found in some of the fruit and herbs. Again, you want to release essential oils, fruit juice, and the delicious flavors but not make mashed ingredients.
The muddler should not be made of aluminum or any other reactive material for that matter (or be a nosy person that tries to take credit for everything-JK). Plastic is also not a good choice as some fruit bleed color and will stain your tool. Wood is a good choice and it should have a flat end rather than a round tip because you get more surface area in contact with the fruit and the mint. If you don’t do enough regular muddling to necessitate a muddler or cannot find other tools mentioned above in your kitchen, I recommend using a spoon against the side of the glass, almost like mushing the mint leaf.
2 large sprig spearmint
Couple wedges of juicy lime
2 tea spoon of sugar
2 oz white rum
Ice - crushed is best, small cubed is okay too
- Place a sprig worth of mint leaves, sugar, and a wedge of lime in a tall glass. Tall highball glass preferred.
- Muddle with love (and Cubanness) .
- Add crushed ice, rum, and stir well to dissolve sugar to your liking.
- Top off with club soda and stir lightly to incorporate.
- Garnish with fresh sprig of mint and an wheel of lime.
- Slowly sip your labor of love, enjoy the way the flavors meld over time. Do not chug down in less time than it took you to make it.
Mojito Making Tips:
- Many mojito recipes call for simple syrup, but I find sugar to be better for muddling. The pointy crystals of sugar act as an abrasive medium which increase the efficiency of the muddle.
- Use crushed ice when making this beverage. The extra surface area of crushed ice will make your drink cool quicker. Plus crushed ice melts faster, which is a good thing for a drink with strong flavors.
- Mojito should be made with dry white rum. Do not use dark, gold or spiced rum. Just like most cocktails, quality of booze does matter (as much as the motion of the ocean).
- Do not use pre-made mojito mix out of a bottle. This is a cocktail that you cannot substitute ingredients for convenience. From the start 100% hand-made, 100% more enjoyable.
- If you don't want tiny pieces of mint floating in your drink, you can strain the contents into ice-filled glass, and garnish with fresh mint and lime to serve. I like mine dirty like my... well never mind.
- And last but not least, I encourage you to grow your own mint so you can make this any time :) Mint is easy to grow, and fool proof at that. All you need to do is to save the thick stems, remove the leaves, and bury them in a pot of dirt(rinse before making a mojito). It should form roots in about a week or so. Give it lots of sunshine and water before you know, you will have fresh mint at your finger tips. If you live by a nursery, you can pick up a mini and get a jump start. Just be careful, mint is an invasive plant and it will take over the entire garden if you are not careful. If you want to plant it in your yard, bury the pot so that the root does not spread wild. Spearmint and apple mint are my two favorite choices for mojito.
This is making me thirsty, I think I will make a mojito. ADIOS!