Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mojito Cocktail

Mojito Cocktail with mint garnish

Fresh Mint and Lime Add Sparkle to This Tall Cuban Cooler

The Mojito is one of the trendiest drinks of the past decade.  And no wonder.  This refreshing cocktail packs a lot of flavor and pleasure into each tall, cool glass. 

The Mojito is a volume drink that takes a while to consume.  And sparkling water helps dilute the alcohol quotient.  So it makes an excellent thirst quencher for a long, hot summer afternoon.  You can have two — and still keep your wits about you.

It’s also exceptionally easy to make. 

Been a while since you’ve had one?  Well, now you know what you’re drinking this weekend!

Mojito Cocktail with mint garnish

Recipe:  Mojito Cocktail

Traditionally, you build this drink in a glass.  That is, you add all the ingredients to the glass and stir them with a spoon — no cocktail shaker required.  And if you’re making just one drink, building is easy.  But if you’re serving a crowd, it can get a bit tedious.  So I provide an alternate way of mixing a Mojito that uses a cocktail shaker.  Either method gives you a great-tasting drink.

The only technique involved that may be new to you is “muddling.”  Muddlers are used to mash drink ingredients — mint in this case, and maybe some lime as well — in the bottom of a glass to release their volatile oils (which carry much of the flavor).  Perhaps the best-known muddled cocktail is the Mint Julep.   (And the Mojito is really just a rum-based version of a Julep.)  If you make this type of drink often, you may want to invest in a muddler.  Every liquor store stocks them, and they cost just a few dollars.  But no need to buy one right now — you can use a long-handled spoon as a substitute.

For this drink, you should use a tall glass that holds 10 to 14 ounces (12 is ideal).  This recipe yields one drink, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare.  It’s easy to scale up if you’re serving thirsty hordes.

  • ½ ounce lime juice (I often increase this to ¾ ounce, but I love the taste of lime)
  • 8 - 12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons granulated sugar or Simple Syrup (the quantity depends on how sweet you like this drink; see Notes) 
  • 2 ounces white rum (I like Bacardi, but any light Puerto Rican or Cuban-style rum works well)
  • sparkling water to top up the glass (usually about 3 ounces; bottled club soda or seltzer works well)
  • sprig of mint for garnish (not really optional; see Notes)

To Build the Drink in a Glass:
  1. Add the lime juice, mint leaves, and sugar or Simple Syrup to a tall glass.  Muddle the mint leaves briefly.  You want to just bruise them; if you muddle them too much, they turn bitter.
  2. Fill the glass to the ¾ mark with ice cubes (some prefer crushed ice) and add the rum.
  3. Top off with sparkling water (fill to within ½ inch of the top) and stir to help distribute the mint leaves throughout the drink (they look pretty).  Add a mint sprig for garnish, and a long straw.  Serve.
To Mix the Drink in a Cocktail Shaker:
  1. Add the lime juice, mint leaves, and sugar or Simple Syrup (Simple Syrup is best in this method) to the cocktail shaker.  Muddle the mint leaves briefly.  You want to just bruise them; if you muddle them too much, they turn bitter.
  2. Add the rum to the shaker, and add enough ice so the shaker is half full.  Shake until the mix is cold (20 seconds).
  3. Fill a tall glass to the ¾ mark with ice cubes or crushed ice.  Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass, and top off with sparkling water (fill to within ½ inch of the top).  Stir to help distribute the mint leaves.  Add a mint sprig for garnish, and a long straw.  Serve.
Mojito Cocktail with mint garnish

  • For general information about making cocktails, see the post on Cocktail Basics
  • Use enough sugar in this drink so it tastes good to you.  I often prefer less sugar in my drinks.  Many people prefer more.  You may want to use Simple Syrup instead of granulated sugar.  That way if you want extra sweetness, it’s easy just to add a bit more syrup – it will dissolve in the drink almost instantly.
  • I almost always use Simple Syrup rather than granulated sugar in drinks because it dissolves much better.  Granulated sugar that fails to dissolve completely can make drinks somewhat gritty.  However, that grittiness can be a virtue in a muddled cocktail.  When you muddle granulated sugar with mint leaves, the grinding granules help release some of the mint’s oil.  But whenever I shake a cocktail, I always use Simple Syrup.
  • Using granulated sugar works particularly well if, instead of adding ½ ounce lime juice to the drink when you muddle the mint leaves, you cut half a lime into slices and muddle them with the mint leaves and sugar.  This not only releases juice from the lime (as well as oils from the mint), but also releases volatile oils from the lime peel, which can add a pleasant note to the drink.
  • However, you don’t want to overdo the muddled lime peel thing, because the peel has a somewhat bitter flavor.  It’s pleasant in small quantities, but offensive if you overdo it.
  • Some people like to add the empty shell of a lime half (one that you squeezed for juice) to the bottom of the glass as additional garnish.  In fact, I’m one of those people.
  • Or sometimes I garnish with a few lime slices in the glass (see pictures).
  • The sprig of mint garnish gracing the top of the glass is functional (and thus not optional, IMO).  You poke your nose into it as you sip your drink, which allows you to inhale some of the mint aroma.  This enhances the mintiness of the cocktail, adding considerably to the pleasure of drinking it.
  • Mint grows like crazy, so if you have a garden, it's a good herb to plant.  (It loves moisture, and unless you contain the roots, it can be invasive, so think about where you want to plant it.)  Spearmint is the most useful variety, although peppermint is also nice.  Originally this drink was probably made with yerba buena mint, a variety widely available in Cuba.
  • Some versions of the Mojito call for adding a dash or two of Angostura Bitters to the drink.  This is a pleasant variation – you might want to try it and see if you prefer it.
  • According to to Dale DeGroff in The Craft of the Cocktail, the Mojito originated in Cuba, perhaps as early as 1850. But it didn’t gain wide popularity there until early in the 20th century, when ice and sparkling water became readily available. 
  • Then the drink became so popular that it turned into the “Budweiser of Cuba.” It was a simple, refreshing cocktail enjoyed by farmers and laborers throughout the country.
  • Ernest Hemingway, who spent much time in Cuba, liked Mojitos.  A lot.  
  • He also liked the Classic Daiquiri (another Cuban original). A lot. 
  • Which raises the question:  Was there any drink that Hemingway didn’t like?  A lot?
  • Today, in the US at least, the Mojito is sort of the anti-Budweiser.  It’s become an upscale drink that the trendy have adopted as their own.
Mojito Cocktail with mint garnish

Welcome to Our Summer Sippin’ Series!

This is the first cocktail in our Summer Sippin’ Series here at Kitchen Riffs. Each week through Labor Day, we’ll feature a different drink (we’ll also be doing plenty of food posts). Some of the drinks will be ones you know already, while others may be new to you. But all will be wonderful. (For the nondrinking crowd, I’ll offer nonalcoholic versions of some cocktails.) You can read more about the series in the post on Cocktail Basics.

Next week? First up is a food post – Roast Strawberry Salad. Then later in the week another tall, classic cooler: The Tom Collins.

I’m thirsty already.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Cocktail Basics
Whiskey Sour
Pegu Club
Gin and Tonic
Mai Tai
Classic Daiquiri
Negroni Cocktail
Pimm's Cup


~~louise~~ said...

It's been way too long since I've enjoyed a Mojito Cocktail! I'll be changing that immediately!!! Thanks for sharing...

I must confess, I'm looking forward to that Tom Collins too!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Louise, the Mojito is great! One of the reasons I'm doing the Summer Sippin' Series is there are loads of cocktails I haven't had for awhile but need to try again. And the Tom Collins is a perfect example! Thanks for your comment.

Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef said...

I had never had a mojito til I went to Cuba. Gorgeous day, sitting in the sand outside a beach hut bar on the Bay of Pigs and the barman asks if I'd like a mojito. "I'll make it special for you," he said. That line gets me every time.

I drank that one and several more and then went back to Havana and had a few more and by then I was hooked.

p.s. don't tell anyone that the American half of me went to Cuba years ago, okay?

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Maureen, OK, I promise I won't tell. ;-) Actually I'd love to visit Cuba someday, although of course we in the US currently aren't permitted to go. Someday, though. Anyway, sounds like your introduction to the Mojito was thorough. Always good to see someone take these things seriously. ;-) Thanks for taking time to comment.

Tania @ A Perfect Pantry said...

How can anyone go wrong with such a classical and delicious drink:) Yum.

Carolyn Jung said...

Mojitos are my fave summer sippers. There's nothing quite so refreshing when you have all that mint and lime juice muddled together.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Tania, it's a great drink, isn't it? And so soothing in warm weather. Thanks for your comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Carolyn, it's a great sipper! Lime and mint are among my favorite flavors (after lemon), so of course I like this! Thanks for your comment.

Jayanthy Kumaran said...

omg..sooooooooper tempting
Tasty Appetite

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Jay, it is tempting, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for your comment.

Marina@Picnic at Marina said...

I can't take my eyes off that photo: it's brilliant! Let me take one more look... yes, it is amazing! :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Marina, ;-) Thanks so much for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.

Claudia said...

I love this cocktail! Sometimes I have little thyme leaves floating through it. Your photos are so appealing I want one now - but it's 10 a.m. Must execute self-restraint!

Tara said...

I love this and your pictures are amazing!! I am going to add this to my Mouth Watering Mondays post, come on over to see it at Cheers, Tara

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Claudia, adding thyme leaves is a really interesting idea. I'll have to try that sometime. Thanks for commenting.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Tara, thanks! And thanks for your comment. I'll definitely be checking out your blog.

Mother Rimmy said...

I love the notes you add to your posts. They're so helpful! This is one of your favorite drinks. We love the fresh, clean flavor.

mjskit said...

I'll tell you right now that I don't think I've ever seen a prettier mojito! Gorgeous pictures! Yes, mint does grow like crazy and can take over a garden bed but I still can't get enough of it. Sounds like a mojito weekend!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Mother Rimmy, I agree about the flavor of this drink - nice and clean. Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi mjskit, (blush!) Thanks for the nice things you said, and of course the comment. We have mint in several places in our garden (and a couple of different varieties). Great herb, and so useful in the kitchen (or our drinks!).

Choc Chip Uru said...

This cocktail looks so refreshing and cleansing :D
Beautiful flavour!

Choc Chip Uru

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

So refreshing and summery! A delightful cocktail.



Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Choc Chip Uru, it indeed has a beautiful flavor! And is quite refreshing. Thanks for your comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Rosa, it really is refreshing - and delightful is exactly the right word to describe it. Thanks for stopping by.

Toni @ Boulder Locavore said...

Simply gorgeous! If you only saw how much mint I just pulled from my garden; we could have served Mojitos to all of New York City. Never fear, it will be back in a few weeks! 'Let the Mojitos begin!'. Great post and photos.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Toni, mint is persistent in its determination to conquer the world, isn't it? Thanks so much for the kind words, and the comment.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Sigh! This photo is a true beauty. Recently I worked on my first cold drink photo shooting....and I'm not so happy about the result. It's so hard!!! You totally nailed this. Beautiful AND delicious photo!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Nami, shooting pictures of drinks (or anything with glass) is hard — you have all of these angles to contend with, particularly if you're shooting a clear liquid (the liquid acts as a lens, and reflects the entire room where you're shooting). You might want to take a look at the book Light, Science, and Magic. This book has a lot of useful discussion about dealing with reflections and all of that. Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

Yummy! Who doesn't love a good mojito!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Russell, such a delicious drink, isn't it? Truly one of the great ones. Thanks for commenting.

Kristi @ My San Francisco Kitchen said...

Oh my, thank you for posting this mojitos are my FAVE! Now I can make them myself :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Kristi, truly a nice drink. Glad you help you out with how to make them. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

wok with ray said...

Mojito is one of my favorite cocktail. You have a beautiful presentation of the drink. Amazingly gorgeous!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Ray, such a good drink, isn't it? Thanks for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.

Yi @ Yi Reservation said...

I just bought a pot of mint today for cooking and making drinks and here comes your irresistible mojito recipe :) What a wonderful way to kick off the summer! Thanks for sharing it!!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Yi, sounds like you got your mint just in time! Mint has such great flavor, it's one of my favorite herbs. Thanks for your comment.

Vicki Bensinger said...

I know I posted here already and I have no idea what happened to it. Anyway, as I mentioned previously I'm not much of a drinker but this sounds and looks so refreshing. Your photo is stunning!

This recipe looks so easy even I could make it and I even have a muddler goodness knows why, since I don't drink too much.

I may have to have you and your wife over for dinner and have you make the drinks while I watch. Wow that photo is beautiful! I think you need to make a spiral bound book of all your drinks to give as gifts for the holidays. I want one!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Vicki, Blogger's comments are sometimes buggy, I've found. I know I've done the same thing - posted (or thought I did) on a blog, and later found the comment had disappeared. This is an easy recipe - it takes just a bit of measuring, and even then the measurements aren't too critical (and you're such a fabulous baker that measuring is easy-peasy). And I owe you an email re lunch some day! My daytime schedule is starting to look much better. Spiral-bound book is an interesting idea! Thanks for your comment.

Beth said...

I'm not much of a drinker, but I did enjoy reading about the preparation of this drink. By coincidence, I'm reading a book about Hemingway right now (The Paris Wife) and was amused by the references to him!

the wicked noodle said...

I adore mojitos! The best version I've ever had - besides your standard mojito that is great as is - was a Lemongrass Mojito at a great Thai restaurant in Annapolis; I made my own version and posted it a while ago. I'm glad you reminded me since the weather is perfect for mojitos right now! Our garden has so much mint that I always have it on hand, too. Gorgeous photos!!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Beth, Hemingway is a great source of stories, isn't he? Did you ever read A Moveable Feast? This is Hemingway's book about his early life in Paris (with his first wife). Well worth it, IMO. Thanks for your comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi wicked noodle, Lemongrasss Mojito sounds outstanding. I missed your version - I'll definitely look it up. Thanks for your comment.