I always thought of the mojito as an amateur's drink. Part of my thinking was because of the rum used. I'm partial to the rums of either the West Indies; Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, etc., which are molasses-based, and robust, or the exquisite French island "rhum agricole" of Martinique and Guadeloupe, made from distilled sugar cane juice. The rum traditionally used for the mojito is of the smoother, Spanish variety; Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, etc. So smooth, in fact, that to me, the rum is indistinguishable; practically devoid of any flavor.
Further damaging the mojito appeal in my narrow mind was that the rum usually poured into the drink was the one with the enormous marketing budget making it, in my estimation, the Coca Cola of rums. And speaking of Coca Cola, the rum in question is usually best enjoyed in that abomination: rum and coke. But now I'm displaying my rum snobbery by thrashing a drink enjoyed over the years by millions of people. It's an unseemly trait of mine that, as I grow older, hope I am losing. It really is not my place to belittle one's rum preference?
A big part of my conversion to the mojito is the forest of mint that accumulates on our terrace. Mint, along with lime, are the dominating flavors of the mojito and excellent bedfellows they make.
You can take your mint tea, mint ice cream, mint and lamb and whatever else you might use fresh mint for. I use it exclusively for the mojito. And yes, I do use smooth -- err -- bland, Puerto Rican rum in the drink (though not the Coca Cola of rums whose name will not be mentioned here). I wouldn't dare attempt a mojito with a rum from Martinique or Trinidad. The result would be a completely different drink. The neutral rum from Puerto Rico seems to meld the other two dominant flavors of lime and mint perfectly in the cocktail.
What follows is my version of the mojito.
1 lime cut into tenths.
10 or more fresh mint leaves including sprigs.
4 teaspoons simple sugar syrup*
2 ounces of white Spanish rum (Puerto Rican or Domincan, if you can get Cuban, I'm sure that would work well too).
A splash or two of seltzer
*You can use superfine sugar, granulated sugar, or even confectioner's sugar instead of simple syrup, but I prefer homemade syrup which eliminates having to dissolve the sugar into the drink. The recipe for simple sugar syrup can be found on my post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-silverman/caipirinha-recipe_b_3194079.html A Lime Cut Three Ways: The First Cut.
Add most of the lime and mint leaves, saving a few of each, to a highball glass. Mash and muddle the mint and lime together with a pestle or whatever type of apparatus you might have on hand.
Add the sugar syrup, the rum, and ice and stir.
Pour in a splash or two of seltzer to top off the cocktail and stir again.
Garnish with a couple of lime pieces and a sprig or two of mint.
I no longer demean the mojito and want to admit here that I was very wrong about its many merits. It is a summer cocktail supreme and I now count it as one of my go to drinks. Could it be that this public admission is testament that I am finally maturing? One can only hope.
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