I worked in a Latin American restaurant when the whole Mojito craze really set in. We were the first ones in the small college town of Eugene, Oregon that had a Mojito on the menu, and we were proud to be ahead of the national curve. For years, I made nearly a hundred Mojitos a night, like so many of us around the country did in the early 2000s. It was hard work, and we probably made it harder on ourselves than we needed to, but it felt good to finally be serving people drinks we could be proud of, after the previous decade’s flavored martinis.
What can one say about the Mojito that hasn’t been said before? It was popular, and then it wasn’t popular, and then it became really super popular (thanks to a small group of quality-minded bartenders in the late 90s), and then it became really unpopular again, thanks to another small group of bartenders who didn’t know any better and needed something to complain about.
Listen, there are some simple rules to the Mojito. Don’t try to order one in a dive bar or someplace that doesn’t carry fresh ingredients; they can’t make it, so don’t get upset when they don’t. Don’t order a round of twelve of them during happy hour when the bar is four deep; the drink does take some effort to prepare, and you’re not going to get the best Mojito when the bartender has fifty people snapping their fingers in her face.
But most importantly, don’t fall for the idea that the Mojito is in some way passé, or that it requires the skill of a surgeon to prepare. It’s never been more relevant, especially in this era when bartenders essentially run before they learn to crawl. The Mojito is refreshing, can be made with some very common ingredients, and it doesn’t require or suggest the use of any housemade bitters, esoteric syrups, or house sodas. Follow these simple instructions for the best Mojito you’ve ever had.
1.5 oz light rum
.75 oz freshly squeezed lime juice, plus the shell of half a lime
.5 oz 2:1 simple syrup
1.5 oz chilled sparkling water
fresh mint sprigs
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add simple syrup and about 10 fresh mint leaves. Muddle together gently. Add lime, lime hull, rum, and sparkling water. Add just enough crushed ice to cover mixture, then close shaker and gently roll ingredients back and forth to combine. Pour into a chilled, tall glass, top with more crushed ice, and garnish with mint bouquet.