Mojito, derived from the West African word “mojo,” means to cast a little spell. No doubt, this quintessential summertime sipper has done just that worldwide. Even Ernest Hemingway became hooked upon discovering the drink at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, the drink’s alleged birthplace.
Somewhere along the way, however, the minty libation has become, well, muddled up.
“The mojito is like that little black cocktail dress every lady has in her closet, classic and elegant,” says Brady Weise, bar manager/cocktail director of Rathskeller, a new German-style speakeasy in Pasadena, California. “Yet, it’s turned into a sugar-heavy beast of a thing—everything that is wrong with a cocktail.”
In honor of August’s National Rum Month, we caught up with Weise, also the creator of the Grippit bar tool, for his advice on rekindling the magic to make a top-notch mojito.
Use dry rum, and just say no to flavored rums.
“Just as a rosé or Sherry possess a sweet or dry flavor profile, rums also range from sweet to dry. To avoid throwing off the sour-to-sweet ratio, go with a dry rum as your base. Flavored rums are interesting with a cola or tonic, but unnecessary in a mojito. If you want to flavor your rum, grab a fresh piece of fruit and add it to the drink. It will thank you in spades.”
Try: Ron Flor de Cana, Brugal Especial Extra Dry, or St. George California Agricole.
Crushed ice is crucial.
“You want to get the ingredients as cold as possible, and as quickly as possible, to ensure the mint and lime juice flavors stay in harmony. Using crushed ice is the best way to do this. If it’s not cold enough, the mint takes over and makes it too sweet. Make crushed ice in a food processor, or whack it with a rubber mallet in a clean plastic bag covered with a dishtowel. The end result should look like pebbles that are half an inch or so in diameter.”
Minimize your mint. A little goes a long way.
“Because mint leaves are so aromatic, you only need 8–10 leaves. If the essential oils are properly released, there’s no need to put an entire mint bush in your drink.”
Drop the muddler and nobody gets hurt. (Just massage the drink.)
“Take a mint leaf in your hand and crush it until it’s pulp. Notice how it smells? That’s exactly what happens if you muddle mint. Instead, cup it in your hand, put one palm over the other and gently twist until you can smell the essential oils in the air. Drop the mint into the bottom of the glass and add everything on top of it.”
Forgo the fizzy.
“There are only four ingredients you need: rum, simple syrup, lime and mint. It may sound counterintuitive, but whenever you add more elements, the complexity goes out the window. Keep in mind, the rum is the star of the show, and the other elements are simply supporting characters. By adding bubbly water, whether Sprite or soda, it masks the rum and waters down the cocktail before you even take your first sip. Bummer.”
Classic Mojito Recipe
Recipe courtesy Brady Weise, bar manager/cocktail director, Rathskeller, Pasadena, CA
8–10 fresh mint leaves
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 ounces dry, white rum
1 sprig of fresh mint, for garnish
Press the mint leaves lightly with your palms. Add the leaves into the bottom of a Collins glass. Add simple syrup and lime juice. Fill the glass half full with crushed ice. Stir the ingredients gently (no more than 5–7 seconds) to chill. Layer the rum over the mixture. Add more crushed ice, and stir gently for 3–5 seconds. Continue to layer ice until the glass is full. Garnish with the mint sprig. Serve with a straw.