It is not only Cuba’s national drink, but the epitome of Caribbean joie de vivre worldwide. You can now order a Mojito in almost every bar in the world. Unfortunately, it is prepared incorrectly far too often.
So we have taken it upon ourselves to inform you about how you can make the best Mojito. We break down all the details about this drink, so that you can understand the elements behind its recipe.
History of Mojito
The beginnings of what we now call Mojito go back a long way.
In 1655 the British Royal Navy decided to provide sailors on their ships a daily ration of rum. Fresh water was often in short supply on the high seas. Moreover the water found in shore and bottled water quickly formed algae. Therefore it was customary on ships of the English crown to make the water stable by adding alcohol.
When traveling to the Caribbean, aguardiente de caña was used to this effect as early as the 16th century. Roughly speaking this was rum in its simpler preliminary form.
The sailors and pirates in the 1600s knew the beneficial and soothing effects of mint on stomach problems. It is no wonder that they brought a stash on their long journeys across oceans.
Now the question arises – how did these ingredients come together for an original Mojito?
The Francis Drake Mojito
When Sir Francis Drake, a prominent figure in English shipping, fell ill on one of his caper trips in the Caribbean, a mixture of diluted rum, mint and sugar allegedly helped him get back to health. Drake was called “El Draque” by his Spanish adversaries at sea, and this became the namesake of the liquid mixture that was associated with his recovery.
Of course, this is just a theory about how the Mojito could have come to life.
Other historians claim that African slaves who worked on Cuban sugarcane plantations were the inventors. Guarapo, the Spanish word for sugarcane juice, was often used in Mojitos and was a popular drink among slaves. The name Mojito in turn is said to have derived from von Mojo, a Cuban spice made from lime, which is used in the kitchen.
The Cuban Mojito
The Mojito, as we know it today, is said to have originated in Cuba. Remarkably, the use of mint is not mentioned in the first sources that refer to the Mojito. The first mentions to the Mojito are drinks that resemble the classics like Rum Ricky or Rum Collins.
The “Ron Bacardí Julep” that can be found in John B. Escalante’s Manual del Cantinero, was one of the first references that brought rum and mint back together after the “El Draque”.
In fact, La Bodeguita del Medio, the legendary bar where Ernest Hemingway preferred to drink his Mojitos, has become a mecca for fans of the drink. Unfortunately, this is accompanied by the inevitable.
Tour buses with packed with tourists stop at the bar for 15 minutes and within this quarter of an hour the tour groups can enjoy the Cuban classic. The bartenders are without question quick and efficient. But what they do is make Mojitos on an assembly line, and as a result the quality suffers.
In his book And a Bottle of Rum, Wayne Curtis notes with disappointment about his general experience with Mojitos in Havana.
The mint wasn’t minty, the lime wasn’t limey, and the bubbly water wasn’t bubbly … I’ve had better Mojitos at airport bars.Wayne Curtis commenting on Mojitos in Havana in his book “And a Bottle of Rum”
So, what does it take to make a great Mojito? Its simple. Use a good white Cuban rum. Use fresh juice from limes. Use fresh mint and treat it gently, with care!
Sugar vs Simple Syrup
Any Mojito is incomplete without the sugar. Whether you use fine white sugar or a simple syrup, both do the job well.
But here is the difference.
If you use fine or granulated sugar, the sugar crystals help break up the cell walls in the mint while you’re mottling it. This will release the mint oils that are so essential in a Mojito. A simple syrup, on the other hand, will make for a more consistent sweetness.
We like to keeps things simple. Use fine sugar as it helps with getting the mint oil out. This way we avoid the extra time spent in making the simple syrup.
White Sugar or Brown Sugar?
Traditionally, white cane sugar is used instead of brown to make Mojitos. This is finer and dissolves more easily than brown sugar.
Brown sugar also tastes more of molasses, which does not really suit a Mojito made from white rum. Calorie content wise both brown and white sugars are almost the same.
Do whole limes belong in the Mojito?
No. Use only freshly squeezed lime juice in a Mojito. Stuffing the limes into the glass dates back to when no one could tell Mojito and Caipirinha apart.
Some folks say that muddling limes also releases citrus oils from its rind. But in our test, we couldn’t find any differences in taste between Mojitos made with and without whole limes.
…even when we pressed them gently with mint leaves in both cases.
In the end, they only take up space in the glass and if you muddle too hard, you have a lime-mint pulp instead of a refreshing drink.
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How to Muddle the Mint for Mojito
The important bit to understand is that you don’t muddle the mint too much. Excess bruising will release the chlorophyll from the leaves, resulting in a bitter flavor.
How you muddle the mint depends on the way you make your Mojito. There are 3 common ways. You maybe surprised to know the muddling with a pestle is the least preferred method.
Option 1 – swirl with a bar-spoon
If you are using caster sugar, just use a bar spoon to stir the mint and sugar mixture in the glass for 2 minutes. This is enough to release the mint oils.
You don’t want to pulverize the leaves. You certainly don’t need the pestle for this.
Option 2 – skip muddling, instead shake with ice
Add the rum, lime juice, ice cubes and mint leaves in a shaker and shake vigorously for at least 25 seconds.
The ice will release the flavors for you.
Option 3 – muddle gently (least preferable)
The risk with this method is going too far and also getting the bitterness out of the mint leaves. You must very gently press the mint leaves in the glass in circular motion, with sugar or simple syrup. When it starts smelling very minty, stop the muddling.
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Best Mint for Mojito
The right mint for the Mojito is the Mojito mint, sometimes also called Hemingway mint. The Latin name of the plant is Mentha nemorosa.
However, the Mentha villosa, the grove or apple mint is often mistakenly sold as Mojito mint. And because Spearmint is widely available, most of us use it in our Mojitos.
All are delicious and in practice you will take the one you just get. The real Hemingway mint is the tastiest. It tastes tart but still fresh, which gives the cocktail recipe more depth.
Note that Cubans use the mint called Hierbabuena, which looks exactly like Spearmint. But there is one difference between the two.
Spearmint’s essential oil is in the leaves and it tastes minty. Hierbabuena has a compound with mint and citrus-like flavor, and it is found in the stems. American/European bartenders avoid using spearmint stems, which are bitter. On the other hand Cuban bartenders concentrate on Hierbabuena stems.
Rum or Cachaça?
Cachaça is a Brazilian distillate made from sugarcane juice. It may not make much difference if you only mix your cocktail with a cheap white rum under $10 or the cheapest cachaça on the market.
But it makes a huge difference when you use higher quality products. The Brazilian develops flavors that are extremely tasty but do not fit into a Mojito at all.
Ice cubes or crushed ice?
One of the few similarities between Mojito and Caipirinha are the misunderstandings about ice. Although many bars tend to make the Mojito with crushed ice, in Havana it is made with ice cubes.
We also achieved by far the best results when preparing Mojito with ice cubes. Crushed ice dissolves quickly, diluting the drink.
Best Rum for Mojito
Since the Mojito originated in Cuba, the classic recipe calls for using a Cuban rum.
More specifically, white Cuban rum, which has usually been stored in steel tanks for three years. Cuban rum of this type is characterized above all by a very light body with a fine and extremely mild character.
Light fruit notes and a trace of residual sweetness of the molasses used dominate the aroma spectrum of the Cuban rums. Of course, the classic Mojito builds on these flavors.
However, this does not mean that a Mojito cannot taste good with non-Cuban rums! A long as you get the best flavors in your Mojito, we consider our job well done.
Bars around the world tend to use Bacardi white as their staple. But good bartenders all over think there are better rums to chose from.
We prepared and tasted various Mojitos with different rums. Now we would like to introduce the best of them to you here.
Legendario Anejo Blanco Rum (Cuba)
The Legendario Anejo Blanco Rum is made in Cuba where this rum is particularly popular with locals. In contrast to many white rums, this rum matures in oak barrels and therefore has a particularly wide gamut of flavors, which makes it very suitable rum for the Mojito. Its wonderfully light and long-lasting finish comes without any ethanol taste or smell, making it a smooth Cuban rum.
Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca Rum (Cuba)
Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca is made in Cuba. This rum was allowed to be stored in oak barrels for a whole 3 years, which results in a particularly beautiful flavors. So, although not your typical Cuba white, it nevertheless carries the typical flavors of a “Ron Blanco”: fresh light notes, light citrus flavors and the residual sweetness of molasses. Its fresh, bright aroma goes perfectly with the Mojito.
Havana Club Añejo 3 Años (Cuba)
Havana Club is the most famous rum coming out of Cuba. Each of these rums matures for at least three years. There is a variety of mild aromas in the nose, with a hint of oak, molasses and herbs. It is a good base for making rum cocktails especially the Mojito and Daiquiri. Unfortunately it is not imported into the USA. If you are traveling to Europe you can easily purchase it there.
Cruzan Light Rum (Virgin Islands)
This rum comes from the Virgin Islands. It is a blend consisting of different rums that were allowed to mature between one and four years before they were blended and bottled. Cruzan light rum matures in American oak barrels. It is soft and full-bodied on the palate with a fruity note and hints of vanilla and oak. With a sweet long lasting finish, it is one of the most favored rums to make a Mojito in USA.
Ron Pampero Blanco (Venezuela)
The Ron Pampero Blanco comes from Venezuela and is characterized by a somewhat stronger sweetness than the Cuban rums. In addition, it has notes of exotic fruits and a hint of vanilla rounds off the spectrum of flavors. It makes the Mojito a touch more sweet and full-bodied. Great for this drink!
Plantation 3 stars rum (Venezuela)
The Plantation Rum 3 Stars is a blend of rums from Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. It has a well balanced complexity with aromas of banana mixed with those of other tropical fruits and floral tones. But there are also spicy notes and a molasses sweetness. This variety of flavors makes the Plantation Rum 3 Stars much fuller and more complex than its Cuban counterparts. This is a great rum that turns your Mojito into a much more intense experience.
Mount Gay Eclipse Silver (Barbados)
Mount Gay Eclipse Silver comes from the Caribbean island of Barbados. Barbados is known for its mild and fruity rums. And Mount Gay Eclipse Silver is no exception. It has a very light body, with fine bananas and sugar cane aromas. There are also hints of mint and citrus towards the finish. Everything about this rum fits the Mojito! Particularly noticeable in the Mojito are the mint notes.
El Dorado White 3 years (Guyana)
The El Dorado Rum White 3 years comes from Guyana and has 3 years in oak barrels behind it. It is characterized above all by its wonderful vanilla and coconut aromas. Citrus notes can also be found in this quite complex rum. It may seem unusual in the Mojito, especially because of the coconut and vanilla aromas. But by your third sip you will love this new funky Mojito!
Matusalem Platino (Guyana)
The Matusalem Platino comes from the Dominican Republic. But since, like many of the other rum distilleries there, it originated in Cuba. The owners had to go into exile after the Cuban Revolution. So, Matusalem can be described as a rum of Cuban character. It consists of a blend of white rums and with a dry, light body and fresh floral aromas. A Mojito with the Matusalem Platino rum comes closest to the classic original. It is a bit drier and floral. But this fits very well with the lively character of the Mojito!
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A Great Mojito Recipe
The recipe below gives you two time tested methods to make a really good Mojito.
- 50 ml white Cuban rum or see our recommended list of rums
- 20 ml Fresh lime juice
- 2 bar spoons of fine white cane sugar white sugar dissolves better than brown sugar
- 15 mint leaves take care that you do not use the stems when using Spearmint
- little soda optional
- Ice cubes
- Add the mint leaves with the sugar into the glass and stir gently with a bar spoon. The aim is to lure the essential oils out of the mint without, however, pushing out the bitter substances through too rough a procedure.
- Then add the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. It is better to pour the juice into the glass than to crush the lime together with the skin in the glass, otherwise bitter aromas from the skin could end up in the drink and spoil its taste.
- Add the rum.
- Fill the glass with ice cubes.
- Stir gently. Add a splash of soda water if needed.
- Garnish with a few mint leaves.
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Simply add freshly muddled raspberries to the classic Mojito and you get a raspberry Mojito. A refreshing take on the classic!
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Just like the raspberry Mojito, but with strawberries instead. To make, add the puree from freshly squished strawberries to the standard Mojito.
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By now you must have found out that making Mojito variations is quite easy. Add the juice and pulp from freshly squished blueberries to make this drink.
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Have you ever tried the Bramble? It is a delicious gin and blackberry drink. If you like that, you will definitely like the Blackberry Mojito. Try it!
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Rum and pineapple are a solid match, like in the Pina Colada. While this one is creamy and more like a boozy dessert, the Pineapple Mojito is minty and fresh.
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Passion fruit Mojito
Just like the classic Mojito, only extra fruity and refreshing. Passion fruit pairs well with the Mojito!
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