Perhaps the greatest thing about cocktails is that they can, in a profound way, transport you anywhere. Whether an Old-Fashioned takes you back to frosty, fireside nights in New England, a Pimm’s Cup puts you at a carefree summer barbecue, or a Champagne Cocktail reminds you of your wedding day, the flavors and aromas of our favorite libations mean something different to each of us.
But when it comes to the Mojito, there seems to be pretty widespread agreement: one sip of this light, citrusy, minty cocktail and you’ll feel like you’re on a sun-drenched tropical beach.
The Mojito is a Cuban original that dates back to the 1930s, and evolved from a similar drink known as El Draque. The base ingredients of light rum, lime, mint, sugar, and soda water are classically Caribbean, and they work together so well it’s a wonder no one mixed them in the same glass sooner. Here, we’ll walk you through how to make one that even Hemingway would’ve been proud of.
1 – The Glass
A highball glass of any kind is all you need to make the Mojito shine. You should chill it in the fridge or freezer ahead of time, because this is a warm-weather drink and the colder you serve it, the better.
2 – The Mint
As you may have read in our guide to cocktail mint, there’s a pretty endless array of mint varieties to choose from when it comes to mixing drinks. Some work better than others, and in the case of the Mojito, the choice is pretty obvious. Mojito Mint (Mentha x villosa) is a relatively mild cultivar of spearmint that originated in Cuba, and nowadays it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some in the States. It’s the stuff they would’ve used when the drink first took off in the ’30s, and while it adds that extra little touch of authenticity, any variety of spearmint will do.
3 – The Sugar
As with a lot of cocktails that traditionally used crystalline sugar, the Mojito can be made just as well with simple syrup. It prevents the formation of a crunchy, too-sweet mess at the bottom of your glass, and also allows the sugar to distribute more evenly throughout the drink. But if a little rum-soaked dessert at the end of your Mojito sounds good, by all means use a teaspoon of superfine sugar! Otherwise, .75 ounces of simple syrup works great.
4 – The Lime
Whenever you’re using citrus juice in a cocktail, put in the extra effort and squeeze it yourself. The bottled stuff from the grocery store isn’t going to kill you, but all the processes of freezing, concentrating, and adding who knows what preservatives tend to make the fruit lose its luster. For one Mojito, the juice of one lime (about 1 ounce) is all you need, so it’s not even that much work.
5 – The Rum
Rum is the spirit that ties this whole party together, so it’s important to find one you like. It should always be light, white, and un-spiced, and there are lots of brands that do the trick. Bacardi is a classic choice, since they were based in Cuba before being forced out of the country during the revolution, but really any white rum that you enjoy (one of our go-to bottles is Havana Club) works great. The Mojito is a relatively transparent cocktail, meaning that the spirit shines through the other ingredients and doesn’t get lost in the noise. In short, it’s worth it to put some effort into your choice.
6 – The Soda
For once, an ingredient that’s pretty hard to screw up. Unlike its quinine-flavored cousin tonic water, you can’t really go wrong with soda water. Just make sure whatever you get doesn’t have any sweetener or other flavoring and you’ll be good to go.
7 – Preparation
In the bottom of your chilled highball glass, muddle 5-6 mint leaves by pressing lightly with your muddler. The idea is to express the mint oils, not grind the leaves up into a bitter pesto. Next, add your .75 ounces of simple syrup, 1 ounce of lime juice, and 1.5-2 ounces of white rum, then fill the glass with soda water and stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint (clap the leaves between your hands once to bruise them and bring out the aroma) and a wedge of lime. Serve, enjoy, and be transported to the Caribbean!