Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mojito 101

Although the summer is coming to an end here in Canada, I plan to extend the good vibes for a few more months through the magic of mojitos. I got hooked on this refreshing cocktail five years ago when I tried one at the Miller Tavern, a favourite happy hour destination. Many friends have asked me for a recipe, and like many dishes and drinks, there's dozens of variations.

Although the ingredients are simple, mojitos can be labour-intensive, especially when you have a large crowd to please. I'd suggest making a pitcher, and keep it in the fridge or freezer between rounds. That's more time drinking - less time thinking!

Okay - get ready:

- Fill a nice tall highball glass with some crushed ice or ice cubes

- The best mojitos have fresh spearmint - never use peppermint or mint extract! I'm not being a snob here, this is simply the key to making the best mojito. Mint flavour substitutes will not taste right, and dried mint doesn't work well at all.

- Gently roll 3 or 4 fresh mint leaves between your fingers to bruise and crease the leaves, but leave them intact, and drop them over the ice. Lots of highbrow bartenders are using "bats" these days - a sort of wooden stick designed to crush mint leaves with lime - but I prefer the rolling mothod because bats just mash the leaves into little tiny bits and it's like grass floating around in your cocktail. Mint bits gets stuck in your straw and teeth, and greatly reduces your drinking pleasure.

- Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the mint leaves and ice. This is important chemistry here - the acids in the lime will pull the oils out of the mint, making your mojito delicious to the max. If you're in a pinch, you can use a tablespoon of that lime concentrate stuff. Don't even think about using lime cordial. That's just gross.

- Add the rum. Minimum 1 oz, but I like it boozy, so I use 2.5 to 3 oz for a pint glass. You can use white, dark or amber (see variations below), just stay very far away from the spiced rum. You don't want cinnamon and nutmeg in this one, friends.

- Sweeten to taste. I've used just about every sweetener possible: I think my favourite is organic sugar cane syrup, which you can buy in health food stores or larger supermarket chains. It's a little more expensive, but you don't need to use very much at all, and it is a little better for you. Maple syrup is a popular Canadian choice, and it's fantastic when you use the real stuff, but stay away from the cheap pancake syrup - it's bad news. Honey can work too, but it doesn't dissolve or mix well in cold water. If you prefer a sugarless drink, all the sugar/sucralose/aspartame substitutes work pretty well. Brown sugar (made into a syrup) or superfine white sugar is what bartenders usually use because it dissolves easily in cold liquid. If you don't have that, make a simple sugar syrup from one part sugar, two parts hot water. Let it dissolve for a while and add about 2 or 3 teaspoons of the syrup to your drink - depending on your sweet tooth. You can also add plain old white sugar to the drink - it just takes a while for it to completely dissolve into the drink.

- Top up the rest of the glass with soda water. You can also use a sparkling mineral water like Perrier, but don't use Tonic water unless it's midnight and the store's closed and you're utterly desperate. If you use tonic, you probably won't need to add any sugar. Then again, at this point, you likely are already drunk and you won't care.

- Garnish with a slice of lime and a sprig of mint leaves (whole, not crushed), and your guests will be extra grateful if you have drinking straws, because the bits of mint can get in the way and make it awkward to sip. Plus, you can end up with mint leaves on your teeth, which is really funny, albeit unattractive.

Some interesting variations on the Mojito:

The Classic Mojito: Lightly crisp and clear- use white rum, and white superfine sugar/sugar syrup made from white sugar.

The Dirty Mojito: My personal fave, it's much more flavourful and sorta the colour of iced tea - use amber or dark rum, and sugar syrup made from brown, golden, turbinado (raw), or organic cane sugar.

The Homoijito: use Barbados Mount Gay cane rum and mint grown in your gay friend's garden.

The Moskojito: use 1.5 oz of rum and 1 to 1.5 oz of vodka.

The Strawberry Mojito: this is a great variation I found at Toronto restaurant, Oliver Bonacini. Replace the lime juice with 3 pureed or fork-crushed strawberries, or 2 tsp of that frozen strawberry daquiri/margarita stuff made by Bacardi. You won't need to add much sugar (if any). In fact, you could really replace the limes with almost any fruit puree and I'm sure it'd be a winner.

The Trailer Trashito: yes, I've tried this while camping with limited supplies. Use 1 Tbsp of that lime concentrate you get in the plastic green lime, then if you're outta rum, just add tequila, vodka, or whisky, add a splash of 7-UP if you're out of soda water, and if you still need to sweeten it, use packets of leftover sugar from the donut shop that you stashed in your glove compartment. Hopefully you'll have mint, but I've actually dropped in a stick of spearmint chewing gum and hey, no one died.

The Drake's Canadian Mojito: use a bit of maple syrup as your sweetener, in place of sugar.

Aaron Edwards' Blow-hito: Add a shot of Jagermeister with the rum. This version is for seasoned professionals only!

Please feel free to share your own recipes!


gerberdaisy said...

can i tell you how much i love you?!??!?!?!?
SB said Kat posted her mojito secrets for you/
i realized all this time , I never went to your blog-
i am a self centered, ego centric, pompous bitch.
i apologize.
Please forgive, accept my gratitude for your wonderful mojoito post, and treasured friendship.
we are so taking a trip to Canada!!!!

Chris said...

Dudette! Way cool - my vunderful Viennese vife had a mojito for the first time a few weeks ago and has been hooked ever since. The problem is that there's only one bar in town that will make them, and they charge $7 each... Now, thanks to you, we can make our very own! Wheee!

steakbellie said...

Canada for Mojitos? only if Kat brings the Chick in the Tigger suit to hang out with!

katrocket said...

Daisee: Oh dont be silly! I value your ego-centric pompous bitchiness! hahaha Just kidding - welcome to RocketRadio (finally).

Chris: I'm so happy to help your vife lead the good life at home! Yeah, I got tired of paying $9.50 per drink here in Toronto, so I went on a mojito quest to make my own. It was 12 months of "difficult research", (HA!) but bringing rum-filled joy to others has made my oft-treacherous journey worthwhile!

S'Bellie: Tigger is my partner in crime, so she's never far from my side. Whatcha waiting for? You've seen photographic proof that there's good times to be had in the northlands! I'm considering a "possible" excursion to NYC in Oct - I'll bring my cocktail shaker if you guys wanna meet me half-way!

Bill Pocock said...

Mojitos are in the air. I had one of the fine Drake Hotel mojitos Monday night.

Their special incredient?

Real Canadian maple syrup.

Thanks, babe!

Aaron said...

I'm with Art Slob - my friend in NYC, Atila, makes his special Puerto Rican Mojitos with Canadian Maple Syrup - go figure.

I've invented the Blowjito - regular mojito with a shot of Jagermeister tossed in the mix. It's not the prettiest but feels fine if you shut your eyes and lie back.

katrocket said...

you know, I tried the maple syrup version a couple days ago and thanks for the tip, boys! It was marvelous. I'm not yet ready for the Blowjito, Aaron - I'll save that for when I'm under your supervision.