Rum, lime, simple syrup, mint. Keep it simple and you’ll realize what makes this drink a classic.
The mojito— a quintessential summertime Cuban cocktail—comes from the African word ‘mojo’, which means to place a little spell. And as history indicates, it has cast a bewitching spell on imbibers—the most famed being author Ernest Hemingway who discovered the drink during his time in Havana at La Boguedito del Medio. Despite Hemingway’s fascination with the famous long drink, the mojito’s magic doesn’t usually extend to barkeeps.
In fact, bartenders love to hate it.
Why? It’s time-intensive, messy, and yawn-inducing since it’s often the go to sipper for non-experimental drinkers.
Yet, L.A. bartender Brady Weise—like Hemingway—continues to champion the cocktail’s cause.
“Classic in its elegance, the mojito is like that little black cocktail dress every lady has in her closet—perfect for any occasion,” says Weise.
Over time, he says it has “turned into a sugar-heavy beast of a thing, everything that is wrong with a cocktail.”
Surprisingly, many common mojito-making techniques are abominations of the original form. In hopes of conjuring the ‘mojo’ again, here are Weise’s five do’s and don’ts to perfect the mojito:
Do: Treat it Like a Daiquiri
A mojito is a daiquiri with mint and has only four components: fresh lime juice, sugar, rum, and mint. Much like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, the four components work in harmony to create a magical experience. Nothing more is required. Things like bottled lime sugar syrup, lime wedges, or any green stuff other than mint only degrade the perfection of this amazing cocktail.
Don’t: Use Sprite or Soda Water
It’s not so much a mystery but rather a travesty as to why this practice continues. Any additional sugar covers up the fact that the cocktail you’re getting, or making, isn’t very good. In addition, the effervescence waters down the cocktail before you can actually drink it. Bummer.
Do: Use Crushed Ice
With the exception of the hot toddy and a few other drinks meant to be served hot or warm, cocktails are best when served cold. What makes the mojito exceptional is that the small pieces of crushed ice not only chill the drink, but chill the glass as well. Crushed ice can be made using a clean plastic bag, a dish towel, and a rubber mallet, a food processor, or a blender. The end result should look like pebbles around half an inch to an inch or so in diameter.
Don’t: Muddle Your Mint Into Oblivion
Mint is the component that makes this drink shine; it captures the rays of sun glittering against the glass and brings them to rest in earthly form. Crushing the mint is very simple; cup it in your hand, put one palm over the other and gently twist. When you can smell the oils in the air, it’s done. Drop said mint into the bottom of the glass and add everything on top of it. No further manipulation or muddling is required.
Don’t: Use Flavored Rum
Flavored rums are interesting with a cola or tonic, but unnecessary for the 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. Bartending professionals flavor our liquor with fresh and dried produce, with care and attention to the fact that the liquor is the reason the drink exists. Respect the spirit and it will offer respect in return.
Mojito Recipe the Weise Way
Courtesy of Brady Weise, Disarono’s Southwestern Regional Winner of the Mixing Star, Rathskeller, Pasadena, CA
And a final word via Weise about the classic Cuban drink: The mojito is iconic and timeless for a reason. It celebrates the ingredients with equal measure and gusto. In essence, it brings all the components to life. Respect your cocktail, love your cocktail, and it will most certainly love you back.
- 2 oz. White Rum
- 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- 1 oz. Simple Syrup
- 8-10 Leaves of Fresh Mint
- Mint for Garnish
Preparation: Add the mint into the bottom of your Collins glass, after pressing it lightly between the palms of your hands. Add your simple syrup and lime juice. Fill the glass half full with crushed ice and stir the ingredients gently to allow them to chill down. Layer your rum over the frozen mixture, add more crushed ice and stir gently. Continue to layer the ice until the glass is full. Garnish with several sprigs of fresh mint surrounding the straw. This will give the drink a mint essence even before consumption, which helps create a full sensory experience.