Mint can be used for many things; perhaps the most festive way to employ its leaves is by throwing a mojito party.
Mojitos (mo-HEE-toes) are often misunderstood by both drinker and bartender. First, Sprite is not an ingredient. Second, this is not a weak drink; it starts out quite strong and mellows over time as it blends with the melting ice. It’s what I like to call smooth on sipping. A good mojito should last around 30 minutes. Third, it’s really not as difficult to make as some bartenders would have you believe. But if you order six to eight of them at your favorite watering hole, don’t expect them to show up right away. Good things take time.
The history of the mojito is a bit murky. Some say it was created for Sir Frances Drake while the more likely story is that slaves in the Cuban sugar cane fields crafted the drink from a homemade rum called aguadiente (literal translation: firewater), mint and limes. Naturally, as it was Cuba, rum was eventually used, and likely a smart bartender added a spritz of soda water for both body and to mellow out the harshness of the rum.
In the first decade of this century, the mojito got its mojo back, so to speak, and became hugely popular in trendy bars across the country. Though that has waned a bit, people still enjoy this magic summer combination of rum, mint and lime. And why not? It tastes really good and you can finally put that mint plant to use.
Kevin Hopper grows his own mint and can muddle with the best of them. Find him behind the bar at Capitol Bar on West State Street.
6 mint leaves
3⁄4 ounces fresh lime juice
3⁄4 ounces simple syrup
1 1⁄2 ounces white rum
1 1⁄2 ounces club soda
Mint sprig for garnish
Place mint leaves in a cocktail shaker and gently press with a muddler or the back of a bar spoon, expressing the oils in the mint. Add in simple syrup, lime juice and rum, and fill the shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a highball glass (ice and all). Fill the rest of the glass with the club soda. Top with a mint sprig and find a hammock (you’ll need it).