I fell in love with mojitos in the back streets of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter. There, in a dark tiny bar barely larger than a closet, a man stood behind a counter with bags of ice, limes, fresh mint, white rum and an old cash register. That was it – he only made mojitos.
What I loved was the simplicity. He’d get a tumbler glass, fill it with a whole lime that was quartered, add sugar and mint and then muddle them thoroughly until they became pulp, fill the glass with crushed ice (which was crushed by him wrapping the ice in cloth and pounding it with his muddling stick) and then pour rum freely until the glass was full. Then he’d slap the glass into a shaker, shake, and pour everything back into the glass.
The result was perfect in my eyes but this isn’t the traditional mojito recipe. Hailing from Cuba, mojitos are traditionally served in tall glasses, served with soda water (some claim the soda should be added before the rum, others say after the rum), and have less lime in them (yet again recipes vary – it’s common for some people to only use lime juice rather than muddled limes). The ice is usually not crushed but the mint leaves (with the stalks left on to add flavour) are – but only enough to release flavour so that the leaves don’t get torn to smithereens. As for sugar: some use syrup, others go for powdered or granular (some claim that the granular sugar helps act as an abrasive to help release the mint’s goodness during muddling). Lastly, the Cuban mojito is stirred gently rather than shaken.
Personally, I still prefer the short, soda-water-free version I had in Barcelona (although I like the idea of muddling the lime quarters first until they become pulp, then adding the sugar and mint and gently muddling again so the leaves don’t fall apart). Even though I’ve had good traditional mojitos made with soda water, I find that bars often put too much soda water in them (and I don’t think the soda water should be added to the top) which detracts from the full hit of the lime.
Incidentally, the Barcelona-style mojito I mentioned above is closer to Brazil’s caipirinha in terms of how it’s made. The main differences are that the caipirinha doesn’t have the mint and uses cachaca (a Brazilian sugar cane spirit similar to rum but, in my opinion, a lot rougher – although this depends upon the brand you use) as the spirit.
You then have the caipiroska, which is made with vodka instead of cachaca. Yet despite having many caipiroskas and caipirinhas, including in Brazil, I’ve got to say my heart still belongs to my bastardized Barcelona mojito. Then again, I’m biased – just the smell of freshly cut lime triggers a sense memory that takes me instantly back to that tiny hole-in-a-wall bar where my love affair not just with mojitos but cocktails in general had begun.
- one lime
- several mint leaves
- 60ml (two shots) of white rum
- a teaspoon of sugar (or add to taste)
Quarter the lime and put the pieces in the bottom of a short glass or tumbler. Add the sugar and then the mint leaves, and muddle like mad. The idea is that muddling releases the mint leaves' oils. Add crushed ice and pour the rum in. Throw the ingredients into a cocktail shaker (or put half the shaker over the glass to form a seal) and shake until cold. Voila!
If you have any mojito tips or experiences then feel free to leave a comment below: