I worked in a Latin American restaurant when the whole Mojito craze really took off a little more than a decade ago. 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. We probably made it harder on ourselves than we needed to, specializing in such a labor-intensive drink, but it felt good to finally serve people drinks we could be proud of, after the previous decade’s flavored martini craze.
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 1990s), 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. So that trend I was on the leading edge of in Eugene faded away. But this is a drink so good, it should resist the ebbs and flows of our fickle cocktail trends. You just need to make sure you know what you’re doing when ordering or making it.
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 has 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. With the proper care, you can create this crowd-pleaser. Just follow these simple instructions for the best Mojito you’ve ever had.
• 1 ½ oz. light rum
• ¾ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, plus the shell of half a lime
• ½ oz. 2:1 simple syrup
• 1½ oz. chilled sparkling water
• crushed ice
• 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.
ANOTHER DRINK FROM JEFFREY MORGENTHALER
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.