If the Mint Julep and the Daiquiri had a child, it would most likely resemble the mojito! The favorite Cuban cool cocktail has elements of both the Kentucky Derby mainstay and the cruise ship darling, but there is no mistaking it’s own sparkling personality. In Miami, with its large and rooted Cuban community, the mojito is taken like water. And why not; the cool minty elixir goes down so smooth and we like to say a little bit of rum is good for the digestion!
Sipping slowly, drinking a mojito in any one of our glamorous nightspots is a favored pastime of Miamians, but the residents of this city enjoy them so much, they are all too happy to share how they make them at home. The recipe is quite simple and straightforward, but the history of this tropical beverage is anything but. So before you squeeze some fresh limes and ready some sugar, let’s take a look at the storied past of the mojito.
While there are many tales, I like to give credit to the African slaves on the island Cuba who worked in the Cuban sugar cane fields during the 19th century as they were supposedly instrumental in the origin of the cocktail. It has been said that the slaves designed the forerunner to the modern mojito as a medicinal remedy for ill sailors who contracted scurvy on the high seas. When the sailors arrived to the island, the slaves recognized that these men needed vitamin C combat the disease. Hence a drink with lime as a major ingredient was born. In order to make it somewhat palatable, sugar cane juice and mint was added.
And then came Bacardi! Praise be for Facundo Bacardi! Emigrating from Spain to Cuba in 1830, Mr Bacardi developed the rum’s flavor and smooth texture that you see in today’s mojito. Rum was rather crude, but clever Mr Bacardi tamed the rum by pioneering charcoal rum filtration which removed the impurities from the rum. Then he created two different distillates that he could blend together, balancing the flavor of the rum. Finally he aged the rum in white oak barrels to develop subtle flavors.
History aside, it’s in the drinking of a properly prepared mojito that creates memories for the appointed bartender and the thirsty fans! Fortunately you won’t need a bevy of ingredients and probably right now, you have everything you need.
• Lime (about 1/2 of a large lime)
• Spearmint ( about 5-6 leaves)
• Cuban rum, about 2 ounces
• Club soda
Add the sugar, about a tablespoon or so, into a tall glass. Add in squeezes of lime and a few of the mint leaves. Using a muddler, then very gently grind the mint with the sugar and lime juice, being careful not to crush the leaves, only work more on applying pressure to the mint stem and try to keep the mint leaves intact. Add the rum, ice and a good splash of club soda. Now to finish, take 2 mint leaves and place them in an open palm. With your other palm, give the leaves a good slap and add them to the glass. This releases the final mint oil and makes the overall mojito taste nice and smooth. If you are lucky to have access to real fresh sugar cane, add a stick of it to the drink and use as a stirrer.
And the absolute final ingredients? You need the hum of salsa and rumba music playing in the background, a circle of good friends and family, and a relaxed, mellow mood so that your mojito drinking becomes a real Cuban experience and more than just a summer cocktail!
But wait.....want to really immerse yourself in drinking a proper Cuban mojito? Join us for the Miami Culinary Tour of Little Havana as we serve you the best mojito in town. Perfectly balanced between lime, mint, rum and sugar, you’ll be privy to mojito tales as only our master storytellers can share. Your expert guide is completely mojito savvy for this beloved neighborhood tour, so we will be waiting for you with the sultry drink in hand.
By Robyn Webb