As temperatures rise, we could all use a refreshing drink. And that drink is the mojito.
“They immediately transport you to a place of tropical relaxation. A good mojito is an immediate mood-booster for me,” says Kyle Anderson Smith. He’s the 2022 Iconoclast Dinner Series spirits honoree, bar manager at Etta Chicago and beverage counselor at Camp Yoshi, so he would certainly know.
Thankfully, we have the line on how to craft the perfect mojito. Light and refreshing, this muddled-mint Cuban cocktail is simple and summery. Because it has so few ingredients, it’s important to get it right. Here’s everything you need to know to mix the perfect mojito straight from the bartenders who do it best, including their tips for how not to mess it up!
The anatomy of a mojito
While the history of the mojito is contested, it definitely originated in Cuba, the birthplace of rum. This spirit, made from fermented and distilled sugar cane or molasses, is the only alcohol in a mojito, making it super easy to make at home.
Chances are you already have the ingredients you need to make a mojito right in your kitchen: rum, lime, sweetener and mint leaves. Yep, that’s it!
Rum is the primary ingredient in a mojito and many bartenders agree on which to use. “Bacardi Superior is possibly the most easily accessible white rum to home bartenders and it never waivers in its popularity,” said Georgia Thompson, bartender with The Copper Grouse in Manchester, Vermont.
Your mojito needs a little spritz, so don’t forget club soda (or seltzer). Don’t add tonic, because the quinine in it will change the taste of your cocktail.
Mojitos are considered one of a bartender’s least-favorite cocktails to make because muddling mint leaves is time and labor intensive. “I like to muddle a little raw sugar, simple syrup and the juice of half a lime with the mint. The sugar gets the flavor from the mint leaves faster,” said Joe Murphy, bartender at June Farms in West Sand Lake, New York.
Another trick? “Detach mint leaves from their stems, throw them into a shaker tin and shake with lime juice and simple syrup with ice to break down the leaves. This tip is helpful for those who don’t necessarily own a muddler,” said Thompson.
The base recipe
Use Thompson’s recipe to craft mojitos by the glass at home. She keeps it simple:
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
5 mint leaves
Mint leaf or sprig for garnish
Muddle lime juice, simple syrup and mint leaves, or shake as recommended above.
Shake all ingredients except club soda in a shaker tin with ice.
Double strain into a Collins glass.
Fill with fresh ice.
Top with club soda
With simple ingredients and knowing how to properly muddle, you can scale to making these babies by the pitcher. “Mojitos are perfect for entertaining,” Thompson said. Just don’t include the club soda “until pouring into individual glasses to avoid flatness,” Thompson said.
Avoid these common mojito mistakes
The bartenders we chatted with all had the same thing to say: The biggest mistakes are mint-related. “The last thing I want are tiny shredded mint chunks clogging up my straw,” Smith said. We agree!
The best way to avoid a clogged straw is to double strain the drink. “I believe the most important step, forgotten by many home bartenders, is double straining your cocktail before topping with soda,” Thompson said. For her, it goes beyond the straw. “Avoid catching herbs and sitting through dinner with something green stuck in your teeth!”
Many home bartenders think muddling their mint to the max is the way to go, but Thompson said to fight the urge. “This creates a bitter taste and can kill the fresh minty flavors you look for in a mojito,” she said.
Elevate your mojito game
Once you’ve mastered the basic mojito, you can have some fun with it. The easiest way to do this is with flavored rum. “A nice split base of the rum with a pineapple rum or a touch of coconut rum” is Smith’s recommendation but, “coconut rum can be a bit overpowering, so anything more than half an ounce may be too much.”
Another option, suggested by Murphy, is to muddle one small strawberry or half of a large strawberry with the mint.
Finally, if you have a whipped cream dispenser, Copper Grouse serves a deconstructed mojito that’s easy to replicate and was created by lead bartender Aidan Shaw-Pigeon. Called a mõhedo, “the base of the cocktail is Bacardi Superior, lime juice and simple syrup. A small amount of club soda is added, and the concoction is topped with a mint and lime cold foam, garnished with a single mint leaf,” Thompson said.
While the muddle scares many away, a mojito can be the perfect drink to make for yourself, or as the signature cocktail at your next summer soiree. Have fun with it!