March 26, 2015
Last weekend I had friends over who had a bad week. They requested that I make them a cocktail to ease their worries while we were waiting for dinner to be served. The ingredients we had on hand were perfect for a mojito.
Simple ingredients mean that you need to be careful with the process, especially when dealing with fresh ingredients in a drink. There’s little room for error, but when done right, it’s a happy dance on the palate.
The key to making a good mojito is how you muddle the mint leaves. Muddle them too little, and you won’t taste the mint. Muddle them too much, and you release the chlorophyll from the leaves, making it bitter. Once a bitter flavor is in your drink, it’s very hard to mask. The key here is restraint. Use the muddler to bruise the leaves enough to release their minty scent, then stop.
How do you know if the smell is minty enough? Test it by getting 1 mint leaf and roll it with your fingertips once. Smell the leaf. If you don’t smell it yet, you haven’t bruised it enough. Roll it one more time, and you’ll smell the mint on your fingers. That’s when you need to stop. If you continue rolling it, the smell will be minty with some bitterness. That means you’ve bruised the leaf too much. Taste it to see what it’s like. The color of the leaf changes slightly when bruised, but more of the leaf becomes a darker shade of green when crushed.
You also need to consider what you use for a muddler. Anything with a varnish will add its taste to the drink. A muddler with a raw wooden surface is best. If you don’t have a muddler on hand, you can use the unvarnished handle of a rolling pin. If you don’t have a muddler or a rolling pin, you can use a small clean bottle that will fit inside your glass, and filled with water to keep it stable. Clean glass is inert and will prevent flavor contamination. You must make sure your glass is sturdy, with a thick wall and bottom as you can break it while muddling.
I’ve noticed that it’s not easy to find limes anymore. What is commonly sold are green lemons, labelled as limes. Limes and lemons are both from citrus fruits, but the lime is smaller and less tart. If you are using a lemon, you may have to add more sugar in your drink to balance out the tartness added.
The proportions are for 1 drink. You can lessen the soda water to make your drink stronger.
- 1 sprig of mint with at least 4 leaves
- 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to adjust if needed
- 1 lime, to be cut into correct proportions; if no lime is available, use a lemon
- 1 shot (approximately 44mL) white rum
- 1 can (330mL) soda water
- Wash mint leaves. Gently remove mint leaves from stem. You want to avoid bruising them at this point. Throw away the leaves that are discolored. As you want the freshest leaves, with little discoloration. The color is about presentation. You want to remove as much stem as possible to minimize the addition of chlorophyll. Set aside.
- Wash the lime. Place the lime on a flat surface. With the palm of your hand, roll the lime so that you are able to feel it get squished a little. This is to make it easier to squeeze the juice out of it later.
- Cut the lime into 8 equal portions. Set aside.
- Get a thick bottomed serving glass. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, mint leaves, and ⅛slice of lime.
- Get a muddler, and press down slowly until you feel the bottom of the glass. Twist the muddler 1-2 times.
- Remove muddler and smell. If you can smell the mint, stop. If you cannot smell the mint, return muddler to glass, press until you feel bottom of glass, and twist once. Repeat this step until you can smell the mint.
- Add 1 shot white rum.
- Add 3-6 cubes of ice, until the ice is 1”below the rim of the glass.
- Pour soda water over ice to cool it.
- Using a swizzle stick or spoon, mix drink. Taste. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar if needed. Mix again.
- Serve and enjoy!
Photo credit: Rica Palomo-Espiritu
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