Happy National Mojito Day! What a cocktail to celebrate – refreshing, exotic and sexy. The Mojito was born in Havana, Cuba and, like all things great, historians dispute the origin. Not only that, even the name is a subject of debate. What is known is that this craft cocktail is delicious and, as of a report from 2014, it’s the most popular cocktail in Britain.
There is one major origin story regarding the Mojito. The first is attributed to El Draque (The Drake) or El Draco (The Dragon) himself, Sir Francis Drake. According to this story, after The Dragon’s successful raid at Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of the Indies) in 1586, an epidemic of scurvy and dysentery struck his ship. Knowing that South American Indians had remedies for all sorts of tropical illnesses, Sir Francis Drake sent a small landing party Cuba to obtain the ingredients for a medicine that would counteract the effects of dysentery and scurvy. These ingredients were the rudimentary basis of the modern Mojito: aguardiente de caña (a crude version of rum made from sugar cane and referred to as fire water), lime, sugarcane juice and mint. Eventually tafia, a cheap rum made from sugarcane juice, and rum were the standard for this beverage, with lime, sugar and mint used to make the taste more pleasant. Lime would have been enough to combat scurvy and dysentery, but hey – any excuse to party, right? The second origin story contends that African slaves worked the sugar cane fields in Cuba during the 19th century helped to create what we now know as the Mojito, including its name. The sugar cane juice most often used when building a Mojito is called Guarapo, a popular drink amongst the slaves. They added ingredients to make it taste better. However, lime was never used in this version of the beverage.
The source of the name Mojito is also uncertain. Some say it’s derived from the Cuban seasoning mojo, which is made from lime. Others say it’s just a derivative of the Spanish word mojadito, which means “a little wet.” It could also be based upon the diminutive form of the Spanish mojado, meaning “wet.” One more theory is that the name Mojito is just based upon mojo creole, marinades from the Canary Islands that were adapted by Cubans.
Possibly the most interesting information surrounding the Mojito is the tie-in to Ernest Hemingway. While Hemingway biographers are dubious, plenty of people believe the cocktail was the author’s favorite. La Bodeguita del Medio, a famous restaurant and bar located in Havana, claims many famous patrons: Salvador Allende, Nat King Cole and Pablo Neruda. While the founder of the bar says that Hemingway was not a regular, an inscription on the wall of the bar signed by the author remains to this day. And while biographers say that the inscription and autograph are not attributable to Ernest Hemingway, it’s a nice thought: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” Some biographers are just no fun…
Raise a collins glass with a Mojito or one if its many variants (one is listed below) to National Mojito Day, Sir Francis Drake and Ernest Hemingway!
- 8-10 Mint leaves
- 1 1/2 parts Fresh lime juice
- 1 part Simple syrup
- 1 part Drambuie
- 1 1/4 parts White rum
- 2 parts Seltzer water
Put first three ingredients into a tall glass and lightly muddle the mint. Add Drambuie and rum to glass. Fill with crushed ice, top with soda water, and churn briskly with a bar spoon. Garnish with a sprig of mint.