The Mojito is a undoubtedly a refreshing summery cocktail that traditionally consists of white rum, sugar (sugar syrup), lime juice, soda water and mint. It’s a long drink served in either a highball glass or tumbler that can have a relatively low alcohol content given the quantity of its mixers and ice.
Given the relative simplicity of the recipe and the historic availability of aguardiente a sugar cane alcohol and all the other ingredients on the island of Cuba it has conflicting and interesting origins starting as an ancient medicinal elixir.
The origins of the modern day Mojito can be traced back to the Elizabethan times and specifically 1586 when there was an unsuccessful occupation of Cuba by the privateer Sir Francis Drake.
The Classic Mojito Cocktail Recipe
Juice of 1 lime
30ml / 1 Fl oz sugar syrup
A small bunch of mint leaves
60ml / 2 Fl oz white rum*
Glass: Traditionally a Highball or Hi-Ball Glass or a Tumbler
*Note: You can add complexity to your Mojito by using a dark or fruit rum. There are a number of delicious and easy variations that can change-up the classic recipe including the addition of raspberry, grapefruit & rosemary, lemon & basil, orange and thyme and tangerine & tarragon.
Place the mint leaves ideally in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Using a cocktail muddler gently mash the mint 3 to 4 times to release the juices. Add to this the lime juice, sugar syrup, rum. Prepare you Highball glass with ice and pour. Top up with soda water, garnish with mint and serve.
Sir Francis Drake who was known by his enemies as El Draque or ‘The Dragon’. During his visit to Cuba he and his crew fell ill and were given a local remedy for scurvy and dysentery by the Taíno and Ciboney Indians. This medicinal drink contained sugar from the cane plantations, limes, cane spirit and a variety of mint called hierba Buena. The mint would act to calm the stomach and the lime would treat scurvy.
This cocktail mix provided by the Taíno and Ciboney Indians would later be known as “El Draque” created by Richard Drake in honour of his Captain.
In February 1862 Don Facundo Barcardi Massó founded what is known as BACARDÍ® in Santiago de Cuba started about revolutionizing the rum-making process and created a smooth and light-bodied spirit.
The first known recipe for the pre-cursor to the Mojito was published in Cuba in 1927 and is written in Spanish. The name Mojito is thought to be derived from the Spanish word “mojadito” (meaning “a little wet”) and the Cuban lime-based seasoning “mojo”.
Don Facundo Barcardi Massó would change the recipe of the Draque cocktail and replace the aguardiente with rum. This cocktail would be promoted as part of BACARDÍ® advertising. In 1940, the Cuban playwright and poet Federick Villoch celebrated this historical occurrence by proclaiming: "...when aquardiente was replaced with rum, the Draque was to be called a Mojito.”
The family also recognised Cuban Taíno Indians as symbols of good health, family unity and adopted the bat as the brand of BACARDÍ rum and soon locals began to ask for “el ron del murcielago” – the rum of the bat.
More recently the Mojito has long had an association with “La Bodeguita del medio” a popular bar in Old Havana, Cuba. They claim that their bartenders were the first to make a mojito.
This place started out as a convenience store in the middle of Empedrado Street and hence the origination of the bar’s name, that translates as, “the small store in the middle”. During its history it would sell snacks and drinks and as the customers grew so did the bar’s menu. The walls of the bar are covered in signatures including that of Ernest Hemingway.
Both the La Bodeguita del medio as well as the El Floridita bar were Hemingway’s favourite bars who proclaimed, “My mojito in La Bodeguita. My daiquiri in El Floridita”.