Sure, since the mojito became the most popular drink ever (once again) it's also become popular for bartenders and self-described cocktail geeks to complain about it: It's pedestrian, it's the new cosmopolitan, it takes too long to make. But I remember a time when we were all just beginning to rediscover the mojito. And despite the fact that I've made literally thousands of them during the course of my career, I still have fond memories of those summers when we'd all gather in the kitchen while we waited for the grill to heat up and discovered the drink together, a new generation of mojito-lovers. It's an amazing drink when it's made right, and that's all you really need to know. —Jeffrey Morgenthaler
Test Kitchen Notes
"The Mojito took root in Cuba at a time when most rum was scarcely potable—fierce, funky and heavy with fusel oils and other noxiousness," writes Wayne Curtis for Liquor.com. "How to fix this? Well, if you were a Cuban farmer with a bottle of cheap rum and a long night ahead, you would have used whatever diversions were at hand to make it more palatable—a squeeze of lime, some sugar cane juice, a handful of mint. Then it would go down just fine."
There's nothing more refreshing than a homemade mojito cocktail with fresh mint, particularly during the warmer months. The mint in this recipe by Jeffrey Morgenthaler—the bar manager at Clyde Common and Pepe Le Moko in Portland, Oregon, and the author of The Bar Book and Drinking Distilled—comes in the form of a fresh mint simple syrup, which allows you to make a big batch of mojitos and avoid all that muddling for individual cocktails.
This magic syrup is smart for two reasons: First, by blanching the leaves in boiling water for just 15 seconds and shocking them in ice water, you stop the enzymatic browning that happens when fresh herbs come into contact with oxygen. This easy step ensures that your syrup doesn't turn brown over time. Second, the heat-treated fresh mint is blended with a cooled sugar and water mixture and strained, leaving you with a very minty syrup that can be be used all spring and summer long. You can use it in more than a mojito, too—try it in a mint julep, refreshing cucumber gimlet, or even just with seltzer and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Of course, if you're only making one mojito for yourself, you could just as well muddle 12 leaves in the bottom of the glass with a little sugar—that tastes great, too.
Once you've got the classic down, feel free to riff: Add fruit—like mango, watermelon or strawberries—to add a bit of extra sweetness, though you may want to adjust the amount of syrup you use to keep everything balanced. Or try switching up the citrus by swapping lime for something like grapefruit or lemon. Play around with the flavor combinations, and you might find your new favorite sip. —The Editors
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Serves 1
homemade mint syrup (see below)
fresh lime juice, plus the spent lime half
chilled soda water
bunch fresh mint, to garnish
- Homemade Mint Syrup
large sprigs fresh mint
- Add the homemade mint syrup to a chilled pint glass, or alternately, muddle 12 fresh mint leaves in the glass with sugar to taste.
- Pour in the white rum, lime juice, and spent lime half.
- Fill the glass with crushed ice, finish with soda water and more fresh mint, and serve with a straw.
- Homemade Mint Syrup
- Gently heat the sugar and water while stirring to dissolve the sugar, then promptly remove from the heat once all the sugar is dissolved. Take care not to let the syrup boil, as this will evaporate the water and change the ratio of water to sugar. Let the simple syrup cool to room temperature.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl.
- Grasping the stem ends of the mint sprigs, completely immerse the leafy ends in the boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove the mint from the water, and immediately submerge in the ice bath for 1 minute.
- Blend the blanched mint leaves and simply syrup on high speed in a blender for 1 minute.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth, pour into a plastic squeeze bottle, and refrigerate. It will keep for about 1 month, and you'll have enough syrup for 12 drinks.