I plan to be drinking many cheladas this summer. But I plan to drink many more Mojitos, because to me, the Mojito is the essence of summer itself. It’s a tropical paradise in a glass, the ultimate warm weather cocktail.
What is a Mojito? Stripped down to its basics, it’s a cocktail made with white rum, lime, fresh mint, simple syrup and club soda. There’s some debate about the Mojito’s origins. Some say it’s a traditional Cuban highball that made its way to the United States in the 1980s via the Miami club scene. According to the folks at Bacardi, Richard Drake invented the Mojito in the late 1500s aboard a pirate ship which travelled the Caribbean ransacking Spanish port cities on behalf of England. Supposedly, Drake would leave his Mojito recipe behind at each place he and his band of pirates visited, eventually including Cuba. Personally, I don’t really care about Mojito history. I’m just happy that someone, somewhere, at sometime invented the damned thing.
I’ve been experimenting with different rums in my Mojitos lately and have found two that especially suit my fancy. It’s probably not surprising that one of them should be Bacardi Superior ($14/750ml). Bacardi has been making the stuff in Puerto Rico since 1862, where Don Facundo Bacardi Masso and his son Facundo perfected the process of charcoal filtration for their rum, which eliminates harsh, undesirable components and mellows the components. Bacardi Superior rum is aged for a minimum of one year in charred American oak barrels, which helps to develop smoothness and roundness in the rum. Taste Bacardi Superior straight up and you’ll detect notes of dried apricot and vanilla, the latter imparted by the oak. You won’t find a mid-priced rum that’s any better for cocktails.
At the expensive end of the spectrum, I’ve been enjoying Tommy Bahama (yes, the tropical shirt guy) White Sand rum ($30/750ml). This is ultra-premium rum from Barbados, distilled by the R.L. Seale Distillery which has been making rum for over 80 years. The Tommy Bahama name is more about marketing and slick packaging, but this is very good rum regardless. It’s an 80-proof white rum made with Caribbean blackstrap molasses and water which is first filtered through coral stone, along with yeast imported from the winegrowing regions of South Africa. Tommy Bahama rums (White Sand and Golden Sun) are then aged in small batches a minimum of two years in American white oak barrels. The result is a light-bodied, slightly sweet and spicy, very clean tasting rum with hints of tropical fruit. Tommy Bahama White Sands rum is a great way to spruce up a Mojito, but at $30 a bottle you may want to save this suave stuff to drink neat.
Here’s my favorite Mojito recipe: In a tall cocktail glass muddle (squish and smash) together 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves with half a lime cut into four pieces. Cover with 2 tablespoons simple syrup and fill the glass with ice. Add 2 ounces white rum and top off with club soda. Stir. Garnish (optional) with a lime wedge and sprig of mint. Repeat often.