I had my first mojito in 2007. It was late spring or early summer and we decided to check out Vincente, the Cuban restaurant a few blocks away. Since then I’ve had my fair share, some really good and some really bad. The best have been at Cuban restaurants and the worst have been at terrible dive bars who feel the need to tempt me with cocktails (since the only thing that makes a dive bar terrible is a bad draft list).
What’s A Mojito?
A mojito (moh-HEE-toh), or moxito (pronounced the same), is a Cuban highball. A highball is a cocktail that has a base alcohol that is lower in proportion to the mixer. It’s made up of 5 parts: white rum, sugar, lime juice, seltzer and mint. I’m convinced all the good cocktails require five ingredients.
White rum, or light rum, means that the rum has been distilled a few times and often filtered to remove colors. They are very light in flavor and sweet which is why they are the perfect base for mixed drinks like mojitos. Look for rums from Puerto Rico and either “light” or “white” rum on the label to pick one that will work. You don’t need to use expensive rum in a mojito.
Traditionally, the mojito used sugar cane juice. A simple white simple syrup works best in mojitos because the drink is cold. Using granulated sugar while mixing up the drink will result in incomplete dissolution meaning either a grainy texture or a bunch of sugar in the bottom of the glass. No, thank you!
You can use the plastic, bright green lime but you know what’s coming… the real stuff is the best. Do you know how to pick the best limes? Look for bright green limes with no discoloration (fading, spots). Pick up the ones that look good. Ripe limes are heavier than they look.
Before squeezing limes keep them on the counter for a few hours. Roll them on the countertop. This releases the juices. Then cut in half and squeeze over a strainer to catch the pulp and seeds. You can squeeze and strain a bunch of limes into glass jars and save it in the fridge for cooking and mixing.
You may call this soda water or club soda depending on where you live. The only thing to remember is that it is not tonic. Tonic has a distinct taste that will destroy your mojito. Gin + tonic? Use tonic. Scotch + soda? Don’t use tonic. Mojitos should be made with bubbly water: soda water, seltzer or club soda. We have a soda stream which is a quick, easy and green way for us to always have seltzer on hand.
There are many types of mint. The stuff growing in your backyard is fine. Don’t have any? Just grab a bunch of mint from the farmers’ market or produce section of your grocery store.
How To Make Mojitos
3 fresh mint sprigs
1 oz. each lime juice & simple syrup (made ahead)
2 oz. white rum
- Place 2 mint sprigs, lime juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
- Use a cocktail or other spoon to gently press the mint against the wall of the shaker. This releases the oils.
- Add rum and reusable ice cubes to the shaker. Shake for at least 20 seconds.
- Strain into the glass of your choice, top with seltzer and garnish with the final sprig of mint.
This recipe is a particular favorite because it doesn’t brutalize the mint and then leave it to get stuck in your teeth. I hate that.
A Few Notes
You can have a great time with mixing mojitos. Once you’ve found the base recipe that works, consider adding fruit to your simple syrup and then pouring over a strainer. Flavored rum also works. One great way to do this? Store the simple syrup with pineapple chunks in it and use coconut rum – Pina Colada flavors will fill your mojito. You can also use another fruit juice (citrus) instead of lime. And there are always hacks around sweetener: maple syrup, honey and brown sugar simple syrup put a delish twist on the classic mojito.