REFRESHMENT Story | JOHN DeMERS
n 1586, as Sir Francis Drake sailed near Havana after a successful raid on Cartagena in Colombia, his men started to come down with scurvy and dysentery. Having heard rumors of native remedies, Drake dispatched a party to go ashore and pick up a prescription. What they came back with was aguardiente de cana (a crude form of rum), mixed with lime, sugarcane juice and mint. Apparently, sick as dogs, Drake’s sailors didn’t much care that they were imbibing the world’s first mojito. There’ve been a whole lot of mojitos made and imbibed, starting in Cuba, in all the centuries since. Now, in Texas during our long hot summer, we don’t require scurvy to justify enjoying a glass or two. Mojitos have entered the vocabulary of the mixology world, as another classic—like the martini, gimlet or sidecar—from which the more creative types working behind our favorite bars can spin off. “Mi mojito in La Bodeguita,” Ernest Hemingway scribbled on the wall of that bar in Havana, dipping into the kind of babytalk rhyme he loved, especially after a few too many. The mojito is a keeper after spreading north to Key West and Miami. As with all classic cocktails, there can be disagreement about how the mojito was created in its current form, how it got its name (which probably means “something a little wet”), and what ingredients or techniques are essential, as opposed to optional or fanciful. Most assuredly, the use of lime or some other form of citrus explains its usefulness treating scurvy. And the use of rum, a byproduct of sugarcane whether primitive or refined, makes sense
THE CLASSIC MOJITO Courtesy of Beam Global INGREDIENTS 1.50 ounces Cruzan Estate Light 1.0 ounces simple syrup juice of 1-2 limes as needed 10–15 fresh spearmint leaves soda water DIRECTIONS In a tall highball glass muddle mint with lime juice and simple syrup (you want to muddle just enough to bruise the leaves to release the oils and not tear them). Add crushed ice and rum then stir ensuring that the leaves are distributed all throughout the cocktail. Top up with crushed ice, add soda, and stir one more time. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
because it was the most available alcohol. Taken together, those two things lay down the drumbeat for all mojitos to come, their aggressiveness eventually balanced by sugar and yerba buena, a popular variation on spearmint. Interestingly, although many aspects of Cuban culture and cuisine blended Old
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Spain and Africa, the word mojito may have come to the Caribbean directly from the Canary Islands. It was there that the mojo criollo (a lime-based Creole seasoning marinade) made the trek west. So the next time you see a sign warning of a wet floor (in Spanish, “piso mojado”), I hope you feel at least a little bit thirsty. JOHN DeMERS John DeMers is the author of 52 published books and host of the Delicious Mischief radio show heard weekly in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. He divides his time between Houston and Marfa.
JULY/AUGUST • 2014