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What is a Mojito?

mojito cocktails

The perfect thirst quencher for a summer’s day, the Mojito is a beautifully effervescent cocktail that’s endlessly versatile. It’s a crowdpleaser with a fascinating profile so why not brush up on the history of the Mojito and discover how it’s best made and enjoyed?

8 things you need to know about mojitos

1. The mojito is a classic highball cocktail

The highballs are a family of cocktails that use a larger ratio of mixer to alcoholic spirits. The Mojito is often served in a tall glass and topped with a long pour of soda water, which therefore makes it a member of the highball family.

Interesting fact: the word ‘highball’ is thought to have originated from the railroad term for the ball indicator attached to a float inside a steam train’s water tank. Indeed, the signal used to demonstrate that the train was ready to depart involved two quick whistle blows preceding a protracted one, uncannily analogous to the highball cocktail formula: two shots of spirit and one long pour of mixer.

cuban beach home of the mojito

2. Mojitos originated in Cuba

According to Will Pasternak, a bartender in New York, “Some say it comes from the Spanish ‘mojar’, a verb meaning ‘wet.’ Others say it comes from the African ‘mojo’ meaning a ‘little spell.’” Whilst its exact origin is up for debate, there’s no doubt that the Mojito is a Cuban drink.

One origin story involves Sir Francis Drake’s failed invasion of Havana in the 16th Century. It’s rumoured that his crew weren’t on top form thanks to scurvy and dysentery so a small party went ashore to source remedies from the local South American Indians. They returned with aguardiente de caña (firewater of the sugar cane, rum’s ancestor), sugar, limes and mint leaves, which were mixed together to create the legendary El Draque cocktail before eventually evolving into the Mojito.

We’re sure you’re wondering…what about the dysentery, did the cocktail cure the crew’s ailments? Well, whilst the majority of the ingredients were superfluous (albeit tasty), the limes probably helped put a stopper on the flux, if only temporarily!

3. Mojitos contain 5 ingredients

Type “​​What ingredients are in a mojito?” into Google and you’ll perceive only 5. These are:

  1. White rum
  2. Sugar
  3. Soda water
  4. Fresh lime juice
  5. Leaves of mint

A simple cocktail, or so it seems. But let not its simplicity deceive you! The real complexity of a Mojito is achieved as a result of the method.

woman enjoying a mojito by the beach

4. Mojitos are made with cubed ice, not crushed

The mojito is best enjoyed on a Cuban beach with white sands and clear blue waters. If that’s not possible, then preferably in the summertime! Therefore, whilst the crushed ice popular in a Julep may seem like the obvious choice for a refreshing cocktail, the Mojito should be made with cubed ice; the larger the cubes, the longer they take to melt and dilute your drink beyond recognition.

5. Muddle the sugar instead of using sugar syrup

If you’re lucky enough to have visited Cuba, you’ll know that they don’t use sugar syrup in their Mojitos. In fact, by using granulated sugar, you’re promoting the chemical reactions that make the Mojito so incredible! Muddle the sugar granules into the ice and mint leaves and you’ll also encourage the release of minty oils, which react with the fresh lime juice to offset some of the bitterness from the chlorophyll contained in the mint.

6. Mojitos contain white rum, not vodka

Darker rums have deep and complex flavours (thanks to a long ageing process) that can overpower the luscious yet delicate flavours of the lime and mint. Therefore, Mojitos typically contain white rum, which has a much lighter and more crisp flavour. Of course, you can use alternatives to white rum such as vodka, tequila or gin, but these spirits will not accomplish the authentic flavours of a Cuban Mojito.

mojitos being held in the air

7. Mojitos are stirred, not shaken

Making the Mojito is a science. As the rum is poured into the drink, it delicately blends the ice meltwater together with the oils from the mint leaves, which is helped along by the addition of soda water. Finish by swirling a long bar spoon (essential cocktail equipment) around the inside of the tall glass a few times, lifting it up slightly as you do so to distribute the sugary oils further up the glass.

8. Mojitos taste sweet, citrusy and minty fresh…but not always

The classic Mojito is extraordinarily delicious as it is but we know how much people like to experiment. Fortunately, as long as one sticks loosely to the guidelines above, the Mojito can be easily adapted to showcase a variety of summery flavours; don’t be afraid to play around with the herb and fruit elements of this cocktail. For example, you could swap the limes for strawberries and the mint for basil.

cucumber mojito

Discover how we’ve used CROSSIP Fresh to make this alcohol-free Cucumber Mojito.

Ultimately, have fun with it! The Mojito is the manifestation of joy and we’d love to hear how you express yours!

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