Monday, March 14, 2011


Some of you may not know this, but the mojito is really the drink that started it all. One summer night, circa 2008 - four good girl friends, a little bit of peppermint, a bottle of rum, and my first-ever batch of simple syrup came together to make some very, very delicious mojitos. And probably the most fun I've ever had on a week night. I was hooked. On mojitos, and on mixing drinks.

So, recently, I decided to re-visit the mojito. And, just to shake things up a little, to make a mojito variation with every kind of clear liquor in my kitchen. But first, I needed to establish a base recipe for the mojito. Now, I can be a little bit of a stickler for the rules. Especially when it comes to cocktails. I mean, classic is best, right? So I first turned to the oldest known recipe for a mojito, from a 1929 Cuban cocktail book called, appropriately, El Libro de Cocktail, and helpfully re-printed in Food & Wine magazine's "cocktails '09". Also helpfully reprinted right here:

The Original Mojito
8 mint leaves
2 oz white rum
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz chilled club soda

I made a mojito, just as the 80-year-old recipe said. It was pretty, to be sure. I took many pictures of it. But I tasted it and I was...underwhelmed. I longed to return the the mojito that first captured my heart that summer night. So I made another mojito, according to my old recipe. I took a sip...delicious. Feels like the very first time.

"What is the secret of this fantastic mojito?" - you must surely be asking yourself. Two things: 1. turbinado simple syrup. Just like it sounds - simple syrup made with turbinado sugar, 1:1. 2. peppermint. Spearmint is pretty much the gold standard for mint in cocktails - every bar I've ever been to uses it for their mojitos, so that's what I used to make the classic mojito. But the drinks from the infamous Night of the Mojitos were made with peppermint, which imparts a stronger mint flavor. For the recipe printed below, I used half and half, and the result was lovely. Where can one find peppermint? I grow mine myself. You can tell the difference between the two varieties by the shape of the leaves, and, of course, by the way they smell.

peppermint vs. spearmint.

Nancy's very special mojito
8 mint leaves (4 spearmint, 4 peppermint)
1.5 oz rum
.75 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
.5 oz turbinado simple syrup
1 oz soda water

Place the mint leave in the bottom of a shaker, cover with the simple syrup, and muddle. Add the lime, rum, and 5-6 ice cubes, and shake and strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Top with the soda water.

I'll be damned is this is not the best mojito I've ever had.

So now that we've established a basic recipe for the mojito, it's time to get crazy. First up, the mexi-jito - a mojito made with tequila. Luke, an inventive drinker and a particular fan of tequila, gave me the idea for this one.

8 mint leaves (half and half)
1.5 oz silver tequila
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz agave nectar
1 oz soda water

Verdict: Oh, it's good. The combo of tequila and mint is wonderfully smooth, and almost, just a teeny tiny bit, reminds me of chocolate. Interesting and delicious and refrescante. Definitely worth a try.

Next: A mojito with cachaça. Since cachaça and rum are so similar, substituting cachaça for rum in a mojito seems pretty logical. Plus, the caipirinha, the most famous cachaça drink out there, is essentially just a mojito without mint, right?

Brazilian Mojito
8 mint leaves (half and half)
1.5 oz cachaça
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz turbinado simple syrup
1 oz soda water

So...I now understand why the Brazilians don't put mint in their caipirinhas. It's because cachaça and mint is...well, kinda gross. The vegetal flavors of cachaça don't play nice with the mint like rum does. I still finished the drink -but it was my least favorite of all the alterna-mojitos. Since I played it safe with this one, next I decided to try something really unusual: a mojito with poire william eau-de-vie, a brandy made from distilled pears.

The Peppermint Pear
12 mint leaves (6 peppermint, 6 spearmint)
1.5 oz poire william eau-de-vie
1 oz lime juice
.75 oz simple syrup
1 oz soda water

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this turned out like a mojito...that tastes like pear. Actually, come to think of it, it's more like the other way around. Even with the amount of other ingredients increased, pear is the overwhelming taste sensation here, with the mint and lime as mere grace notes. I'm still not sure how I feel about that. Suffice it to say, though, that if you like pear, and you like will love the hell out of this. If you're not such a huge fan of pear, but you still happen to have the brandy around , try half pear brandy, half light rum.

What about...a mojito with gin? This is another Luke invention. Once, at a party, long ago, I was making mojitos when I ran out of rum. What to doooo? Luke suggested making some with gin. I remembered them being pretty good. I remembered right.

The Gin-jito
8 mint leaves (4 peppermint, 4 spearmint)
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
1 oz soda water

It's delicious and refreshing, in that very clean, juniper-y way that gin is. And lastly: an unusual combination that totally blew my mind. Alicia was the one who suggested making a mojito with mezcal - she had something like it at the Anvil once.

The Smo-jito (It's a smoky mojito. Get it?)
8 mint leaves
1.5 oz joven mezcal
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz agave nectar
1 oz soda water

Oh. My. Gosh. Definitely my favorite of all the mojito variations. Nice strong agave flavor, delicious smoke making love to lime and mint. I don't know what I did to deserve this, but whatever it was, I must've been very good.


  1. Some mint took up residence in a corner of my yard and is now crowding out some plants... I think I know what I'll be doing with it this weekend.

  2. I can't help but wonder if the Mezcal was your favorite because you were already wasted off the others...? ;-). Hahaha, just kidding--can't wait to sample!!

  3. Haha...I didn't actually drink these all at once. 7 mojitos at a time might be a bit much, even for me.

  4. My sweet Nancy... I remember the days when you would only drink Tequila! How times have changed. You have such a beautiful blog. I love the color and beauty of your pictures! I think a mojito is due this weekend!

  5. i love that picture. my tongue really is like a giraffe's. also i covet the photos on this post. sooooooooo beautiful.

  6. Too bad it's all brightly colored bendy straws in your drinks.. Kinda takes the seriousness of the post away..

  7. If you can get your hands on some of House Spirits' white dog whiskey, it'll probably work out well. It has a fairly distinct vegetal flavor, much like tequila.

    And, um... what's wrong with colorful bendy straws?

  8. @ Melissa: thank you! I'm happy to make you a mojito anytime you want. :)

    @ anonymous: it's important not to take booze TOO seriously. it's supposed to be fun, right?

    @ Jordan: your comment reminded me that I just bought some Georgia Moon corn whiskey and totally neglected to include it in the mojito experiment. kicking myself. to be ammended soon.

  9. Here's another one for you that's luscious:

    Blood Orange Mojito

    * 4 parts Bacardi rum (or other silver rum)
    * 1 part blood orange puree
    * Lime slices
    * Mint leaves
    * Simple syrup or turbinado sugar

    1. Muddle the lime, mint and sugar with just a little ice. (Put your back in it so you really release the flavors)
    2. Fill the glass with ice
    3. Add the rum and orange puree and stir

  10. I am definitely going to try that mezcal mojito. I've been making margaritas with Del Maguey mezcal, and they've turned out delicious. The smoky flavor of the mezcal is wonderful with the sour lime juice. I'm excited to hear that the smoke and mint worked so well together!

    I recently made some smoked agave syrup using a stove-top smoker ($33 online). I wonder if it's worth trying in a rum mojito instead of simple syrup.

    Also, if you like mojitos, give a Whiskey Smash a try. It's a modified Mint Julep (which is not too far from a whiskey mojito, really), and it is remarkably tasty. Just as the mint/lime/rum harmonize in a mojito, the whiskey/lemon/mint are in perfect balance in a Whiskey Smash. Dale DeGroff, the legendary bartender and bar guide auhtor came up with it, and Gourmet Magazine has the recipe online: Try it and it may be your new favorite summer drink.

  11. I guess I have to go buy some mezcal! Thanks for the tip!

  12. If you're going to spring for the mezcal - the good stuff is a bit pricey - be sure and try this.

  13. Hi Nancy, some really nice pictures and recipes. Im really into Tequila at the time, so was wondering why you used silver tequila (not that's bad thou) and not Reposado/Anejo?
    And what brand did you use?

  14. Mostly because light rum, which is traditionally used in a mojito, is clear, and I thought the silver tequila would look better because it's clear, too. You could certainly substitute reposado - I'd be interested to hear how that changes the flavor. As far as tequilas go, I'm partial to El Jimador - not too pricey, but still 100% de agave.

  15. Mojito is always welcomed in every form :-). I had my first Mohito in Cuba back in 2004 and Cubans use sugar. Your versions are equally delicious...!!!

  16. actually i think the spearmint vs. peppermint picture is wrong. The spearmint has a "spear" shaped leave. Correct me if i'm wrong.

  17. I am 100 percent certain that the identification is correct, because the plants in question are growing in my backyard. I've always found the spearmint to have a less rounded leaf, although that does seem odd considering the name. Here is a good article about how to tell the difference between peppermint and spearmint. (Although the easiest thing is probably just to smell it.)

  18. I'm in Michigan for the summer, and my friends and I just made mojitos with fresh Michigan blueberries! Yum. :-)

  19. If I'm going to be making a bunch of mojitos, I throw a bunch of mint springs directly into the freshly brewed simple syrup just after the sugar has melted and off the heat, and let then let it cool before removing the mint. This mint syrup makes for really flavorful mojitos, and alot easier than muddling each drink. I insert a sprig of mint into the drink as garnish.

  20. Hello Nancy,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog about Mojitos... I think you'll find the problem is in the sugar syrup. My dad is Cuban and there is a recipe that we've been using for a looong time that never fails.

    This recipe is also used in La Bodega del medio in La Habana and uses white label Havana Club.

    1) Forget the sugar syrup. Don't use it. It takes away the zig from the zag.
    2) In a glass, put two generous table spoons of raw brown cane sugar.
    3) Cover the sugar with freshly squeezed Key lime juice.
    4) Place a few mint leaves in the glass and muddle until the sugar has dissolved in the lime juice...
    5) Add crushed ice
    6) Nip of Rum (or two)
    7) Top up with soda water
    8) Take a mint sprig and clap it in your hands to release its aroma.
    9) Place the sprig in the glass and stir untio the "mojo" is nicely distributed.


    Hope this is helpful?!


  21. Thanks for the recipe Papa Gomez! Will have to give this one a try.

  22. Sounds delicious and I love the photos! With a slight modification/addition, will definitely be on my summer patio cocktail list!!

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