We don’t drink alcohol so we don’t do cocktails. We do enjoy mocktails though and almost always order them when we eat out. In the past couple of years though, I have been exploring making them at home. One of my daughter’s all-time favourites is the virgin Mojito (non-alcoholic version) and this post is dedicated to her love for it. Many people don’t consider a Mojito authentic without the white rum, but this is as close as it gets for those of us who don’t do alcohol.
A Mojito is a cocktail of Cuban origin and traditionally consists of white rum, sugar (originally sugar cane juice which was available in plenty on the sugarcane plantations), lime juice, sparkling water, and mint.
Many believe the Mojito was born in Havana though its origins is not clear. According to one story, the Mojito is thought to be a version of “El Draque”, a drink from the 16th century which was named after Sir Francis Drake. In the 1500s, Francis Drake’s ship crew was ill with scurvy and dysentery after fighting.
They were sailing towards Havana, and a small group of sailors went ashore to Cuba and came back with some medicine from the native American Indians who were known for cures for tropical illnesses. The medicine was made of a form of crude rum called “aguardiente de caña” and lime juice, and the sugarcane juice and mint were added to make it more palatable. Of course, there was no ice or soda!
Others believe that it was the African slaves who worked in Cuba’s sugar cane fields in the 19thcentury who came up with the Mojito. A popular drink with them, they used the plentiful sugarcane juice to make it and lime juice wasn’t one of the ingredients in this drink. As for the name, some say it comes from the Spanish word “mojadito” meaning “a little wet” while another attributes it to “mojo” which is a lime flavoured Cuban seasoning.
This non-alcoholic version of the Mojito is especially a good way to cool down during the hot summers. It is easy enough to make, but what’s important while making it is the “muddling” of the lime and mint. Muddling a process where the ingredients, in this case lime slices and mint leaves with a little sugar, are bruised gently with a muddler (a wooden pestle) to release the essential oils in them. It is important to just gently crush the lime and mint without murdering them. This imparts more flavour to the drink and one should be careful not to crush the rind of the lemon or bitterness will seep into the drink.
Even though, ideally, there should be no bitterness in a Mojito, I like a hint of bitterness in mine and I feel that works since there’s no alcohol here. The ginger syrup in this recipe, not usually found in a Mojito, adds an underlying warmth and adds flavour.
Simple flavours come together in the Mojito to make a great drink and it’s not surprising that it’s a favourite with a lot of people. Apparently, Ernest Hemingway was partial to a good drink or a few, and his choice was to drink a Mojito was at a bar in Old Havana called Bodeguita del Medio, though he preferred his Mojitos made with champagne instead of soda! His other favourite was Daiquiris at a place called La Floridita.
My Mojitos are clear without the muddled bits of mint and the lime because I strained them out. I know the authentic thing to do with a Mojito is to leave the muddled stuff in, but I personally like the flavours without the bits of leaf in my drink.
I’ll leave you with some tips to a better non-alcoholic Mojito and the recipe. Enjoy!
1. Crushed ice is better than ice cubes in Mojitos because it melts faster and dilutes the strong flavours in the drink. It also makes a more chilled drink than ice cubes.
2. Do not go heavy with the muddler/ muddling process and “murder” the lime and mint. More is definitely not better, and you’ll spoil the flavours in your drink.
3. Do not make your Mojito plain water with soda/ carbonated water, because then what you have is a mint flavoured lemonade! It’s not a Mojito.
4. A Mojito is a drink with well-balanced flavours (tangy, minty, a little sweet with a hint of bitter) and shouldn’t be sugary so go easy on the sugar. It’s important to use fine sugar (or sugar syrup) as granulated sugar won’t dissolve well and give you a gritty Mojito.
5. Mojitos are best served in Collins glasses which are tall and narrow as these make “muddling” more convenient.