How to Make a Proper Mojito

Tainted by years of overly muddled sugar bombs, this simple, elegant cocktail is one of the oldest in existence. Here’s a recipe for making a mojito right.
Photo by Meg Baggott / Styling by Ray Garraffa

The mojito is a funny drink. There might not be another cocktail that people so love to order and bartenders so hate to make.

Even the most casual bar-goer can understand. It’s a delicious drink, well balanced and refreshing. And given all the muddling and shaking involved, it’s also time-consuming and creates a gigantic mess.

For a bartender, mojitos mean that your sink gets clogged up with mint, with flecks ending up in the next 10 drinks you make. It’s also a guarantee that the next six customers who see it will order one, too.

However, the secret (that shouldn’t even be a secret) is that when done correctly, mojitos are simple, fast, clean and easy to make.

The history of the mojito is steeped in mystery. With records that date back more than 500 years, it’s widely regarded as one of the oldest cocktails still consumed.

For a bartender, mojitos mean that your sink gets clogged up with mint, with flecks ending up in the next 10 drinks you make. It’s also a guarantee that the next six customers who see it will order one, too.

The crew of infamous sea captain and pirate Sir Francis Drake is said to have come up with the recipe upon landing in Cuba in the 1500s. Like many classic cocktails, its original purpose seemed to be medicinal.

The long journeys at sea had left Drake’s men riddled with scurvy and dysentery, and the combination of sugar and lime helped with vitamin C deficiency. Mint helped alleviate the nausea that came from months at sea, while the island’s local spirit, aguardiente (rum’s precursor, roughly translated to “fire water”), made the concoction feel all the better.

White Rum in the Summertime

Whether the story is true is best left to legend. But as with many drinks that enjoy a popularity explosion (like margaritas, martinis, Old Fashioneds), recipes have strayed to become sugary fruit-bombs. Many modern mojitos are less akin to an elegant classic cocktail than a spiked lemon-lime soda served with a stick of spearmint gum.

Here is how to make a proper, simple and refreshing mojito. Don’t tear the mint to pieces while muddling (a light slap is all you need), and allow the lime to take center stage over sugar.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 6–8 large mint leaves
  • Soda water, to top
  • Mint sprig (for garnish)
Directions

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds until well chilled, and strain into a highball glass. Gather mint in the palm of one hand, and firmly slap with your opposite palm to release the oils. Add mint to the glass.

Add crushed ice to the glass until full. If crushed ice isn’t available, pulse ice cubes in a blender, or use the leftover cracked ice from the cocktail shaker. Pack until glass is full and ice rests on the bottom. Top with soda water, and garnish with a large sprig of mint.

 

Published on July 11, 2017
About the Author
Dylan Garret
Associate Digital Editor

A veteran of New York City’s bar and restaurant scene, Garret has lived, breathed and sweated spirits for more than a decade, working as a bartender and beverage director at establishments ranging from Michelin-starred eateries to local Brooklyn pubs. Joining Wine Enthusiast in 2015, he has very strong opinions on proper cocktail garnish. Email: dgarret@wineenthusiast.net



SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories
Please enter a valid email address
privacy policy