All really classic cocktails combine strong, bitter, and sweet, and the ancestor of the Mojito was a drink inspired by Sir Francis Drake on one of his excursions to Cuba, appropriately named El Draque. This drink complied at least… or perhaps at most… with the requirement for strength, the source of which was a lethal spirit known as aguadiente (literally ‘firewater’) which lives up to its name with as much as 60% alcohol content, a sort of pocheen, aquavit hair-on-your-chest type of drink.
I used to drink it occasionally when I lived in Spain, but it’s so mouth-numbingly strong that it doesn’t actually have that much of a taste.
This drink complied at least… or perhaps at most… with the requirement for strength, the source of which was a lethal spirit known as aguadiente (literally ‘firewater’) which lives up to its name with as much as 60% alcohol content, a sort of pocheen, aquavit hair-on-your-chest type of drink.
Too much of a good thing even for pirates (worried perhaps by the news that Drake had died of dysentery) they took to converting their firewater into something a bit more interesting, and less inebriating, by adding some ‘bitter’ in the form of lime, and ‘sweet’ in the form of mint-infused sugar and making a proper cocktail of the whole thing.
One of their number was clearly a culinary genius who stumbled upon the brilliant concept of mixing lime and rum. Rum saw off firewater as ‘strong’ and the Mojito was born.
Recipe for how to make a Mojito
- 50ml/2 oz/nearly ¼ cup white rum
- good handful mint (can be still on the stalks so that they can easily be taken out)
- ½ lime
- 2 tsp sugar
- soda water to taste (none if you’re a pirate)
- the odd ice cube
- Mix up the lime wedges with the sugar in a tall glass (some people just use lime juice but I think a lot of the flavour is in the peel so don’t do this).
- Add the mint which you’ve crushed a little with your hand.
- Add the rum.
- Add the odd ice cube.
- Take out most of the mint leaves and all the lime wedges except one.
- Squeeze in the juice from the rest of the lime wedges.
- Add soda if you must… or if it’s really hot.
In fact if you use whole lime, rather than juice, and omit the soda you are well on the way to a caipirinha, which I have to admit, I prefer.
I know some people (mostly in India) substitute the lime for mango but I think this is a mistake – the lime is providing the ‘bitter’ and mango juice is too sweet… instead of being a knockout zingy drink it becomes a bit cloying. Another, better, variation is to add some sage-infused pineapple purée.
I am not a marmalade maker, but if I were I would make mojito marmalade- use Waitrose’s tried and tested recipe.
You can also add loquats to your mojito, or, as they do at The Woodspeen restaurant in Newbury, you could make a mandarin mojito – follow this link for their recipe.
Further reading on Mojitos
Read Wayne Curtis’ enjoyable book, And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, which includes a whole chapter on Mojitos.
Music to listen to as you mix and enjoy your Mojito
There’s no better music to make your Mojito to than anything from Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club and of course, to add a pirate flavour (sic) to the whole proceedings you can also listen to Mark Knopfler’s Privateering: