Cocktail Tales: How to Make a Mojito Cocktail

Because National Rum Day. That's right ladies and gents, it's yet another national drinking day, and this time we're celebrating rum. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. And yes, I did watch Pirates of the Caribbean before writing this. So today I'm coming to you with what's perhaps both the most popular rum cocktail and my favorite rum cocktail, the mojito. Sure, there's the Cuba Libre, i.e. rum and coke, and the Dark and Stormy, i.e. rum and ginger beer. But those rum cocktails require little more than mixing a spirit with a mixer. Now the mojito is a proper cocktail. It requires an herb, a little sugar, a citrus, of course rum, a mixer, and a lot of elbow grease. Now we're talking.

Like many of the classic cocktails, the origin of the mojito cocktail is a bit hazy. What we do know, however, is that at its core, the mojito is one of the oldest cocktails. Its general ingredients and method likely dates back centuries. Some will tell you that the mojito has its roots in the fields of Cuba, when farmers would use what they had available, such as fresh herbs, sugar, and water to make the rum more palatable. Others credit Sir Francis Drake and his crew (namely Richard Drake) upon arriving to Cuba in the late 1500s, who with the help of locals, concocted a mixture very close to what we now know as a mojito, but which was originally consumed for medicinal purposes to cure scurvy.

The name it was referred to then was "El Draque," which as you may have presumed means, the Drake. It would be years later, however, before the drink would bear its "mojito" name that it bears today.

The growth of the mojito cocktail has largely been credited to Bacardi, which was founded in Cuba in the mid-1800s, around the same time that the mojito started to go mainstream. Many others credit the mojito's rise in popularity to Ernest Hemingway, though these claims are really unfounded. The name and recipe, however, doesn't seem to appear in print until the early 1900s. Yet there's no arguing that the mojito has its roots firmly planted in Cuba.

So with the restoration of relations between the U.S. and Cuba in the last year, it only seemed appropriate to feature the mojito cocktail on National Rum Day. So today I'm sharing the more traditional mojito cocktail recipe, followed by one of my favorite mojito cocktail recipe variations.

Mojito Cocktail Recipe

  • 2 oz. white rum
  • .5 oz. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. superfine sugar
  • 3 mint leaves
  • Club soda

This is largely the traditional mojito cocktail recipe as we know it today, but with one exception, some simply use granulated sugar, while others use simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar), substituting the teaspoon of sugar for 1/2 or 3/4 ounces of simple syrup. This particular recipe I adapted from Esquire and one of the world's foremost cocktail experts and historians, David Wondrich. To make this traditional mojito cocktail recipe, you'll muddle the lime juice, mint leaves, and sugar in a Collins or old fashioned glass. Add ice and rum, topping with club soda and if you wish, a slice of lime and a couple mint leaves for garnish. And voila. However, you may want to adjust the lime and sugar proportions to your liking.

Blackberry and Basil Mojito Cocktail Recipe

  • 2 oz. white rum
  • Several mint (or basil) leaves
  • 1-2 tsp. sugar
  • .5 oz. lime juice
  • Several blackberries
  • Club soda

This mojito cocktail recipe variation was inspired by a mojito I had at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Yes, you read that right, it's a mojito that replaces mint with basil. By and large, you can really experiment with a lot of different fruits and herbs to create variations of the traditional mojito cocktail recipe. Passion fruit and mango are among some of the more popular mojito variations, I've seen, though I'm a sucker for any type of berry, hence the blackberry mojito cocktail here. The difference between this and the cocktail preparation I mention above, is adding blackberries (to muddle and garnish) and replacing mint with basil.

What's your favorite rum cocktail?