kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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Building the perfect Mojito

I did some liquid research this weekend for an article about efficiently making lots of Mojitos without sacrificing quality (I love this kind of research...so much better than merely Googling for info...) I've always been a big fan of this drink, especially in the warmer months, and it's also a great use for the mint that grows like a weed in my garden--or anyone's garden, for that matter. (Though it practically killed me this weekend to pay $2.50 for one of those clamshell containers of mint, but I just can't grow mint outside this time of year in DC...But I digress..)

Anyway, though the basic Mojito recipe is pretty standard (rum, mint, lime, sugar in some form and club soda, shaken and served over ice and garnish with mint and/or a sugarcane stick), ratios as well as techniques do vary a bit. Here are some tips I gleaned from the sources who assisted me with my article:

* Muddling: I've always felt that this technique was indispensable for making a great Mojito. But at Cuba Libre, with locations in Philadelphia, Orlando and Atlantic City (I visited the Philly location a few years ago and it was oodles of fun, with great drinks), bartenders simply tear six leaves (Hierba Buena, similar to mint, with an air of authenticity) and add them to a shaker with all other ingredients besides the club soda, and shake, which extracts a decent amount of flavor without the muddler. It also prevents the bitterness of overmuddling (don't tell my husband I told you this, but he's guilty of this...he just loves using that tool.)

* Sweetener: Cuba Libre squeezes fresh sugar cane to produce guarapo, a light-brown, crisp and vegetal sweetener used in the original Mojito. Very cool, and very authentic, but let's face it--it's not very practical for most of us. Juicers are expensive and cumbersome, and yield a small amount of liquid with much effort. Now, muddling the mint and lime with some sugar works, but you need to make sure it's superfine sugar or it just won't dissolve. Easier still is to make simple syrup. Cafe Habana in Ann Arbor, MI takes this one step further, by steeping a bunch of mint leaves in still warm simple syrup, which provides a bit more of that refreshing minty flavor.

* Making large batches: The Mojito recipe I've been true to for years (taken from The Food Network) makes a batch of six drinks, and the instructions suggest to mix it in a large pitcher. I've been told by several mixologists that you just can't get proper flavor distribution this way. To impress your friends, line up a bunch of glasses, to which you add the simple syrup or sugar, lime juice and torn mint leaves. When you are ready to mix up some drinks, add the rum and ice, shake, and then top with club soda. The folks at Cafe Habana assured me that if you are going to make the drinks within an hour, the flavor won't be compromised.

The Mojito is saucy and sexy, with a romantic history and a refreshing quality that just can't be matched on a hot day (ok, maybe one of the cooling cucumber cocktails I've blogged about can match it, but still...). Are you thirsty yet??

(The above photo shows Cuba Libre's traditional Cuban Mojito. They also have several variations, including Mango, Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon (made with freshly squeezed juice.)

Stay tuned, as tomorrow I'll share a Mojito recipe, as well as the variation that I found to work best.