THE REAL CUBAN MOJITO THAT YOU HAVE NEVER TASTED
Despite having existed for five hundred years, the Cuban mojito is very different from what we are used to. With some precautions, you can do it at home. That's how to do it...
In five hundred years of life, the mojito has gained enormous popularity. The paradox, however, is that the most loved cocktail in the world (the numbers are a proof) is done differently than what its traditional recipe would say. In short, the mojito has ended up like pizza and many dishes of Italian cuisine, which outside of Italy are quite different.
The same happened with the main Cuban export product (along with the slogans like “Hasta la victoria siempre” and Che Guevara’s face).
Yet not everyone knows that the mojito was not invented by the Cubans but by an Englishman: Sir Francis Drake.
Let’s clarify something right away before combinations come up and the good Francis starts to turn over in his grave: Sir Francis Drake was not a pirate but a corsair. That is, he had “letters” signed by Queen Elizabeth I to plunder the ships of the enemy countries of England (Spain in the first place). If he had been a pirate, he would have never become a “Sir.” Now: what is sure (or at least it seems) is that Drake was a great lover of the ancestor of the mojito, who was called in his honor (in Spanish) “El Draque.” Some say that the recipe was invented during the Havana siege in 1586, and was made with cane sugar, lime juice, hierba buena leaves (don’t think badly: it is a wild Cuban mint), water and aguardiente (also called tafia), a brandy distilled from sugar cane, the ancestor of rum. The modern mojito was inspired by “El Draque” when, in the mid-1800s, Don Bacardi refined the distillation techniques of the homonymous company.
Finally, before talking about the real Cuban mojito and telling you how to do it, let’s clarify the origin of the name: “Mojo” seems to derive from a voodoo term, and means “spell.” Who knows, maybe it happened that people on Drake’s ships used to drink the old mojito without feeling the alcohol thanks to water and lime (which was also useful to fight scurvy through vitamin C), and then they found themselves suddenly drunk. As a spell, indeed.
How to prepare the real mojito?
Easy: not as they do – generally – here in Italy. At the Bodeguita del Medio, the Cuban club beloved by Hemingway, it is done differently (“My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita” wrote the American Nobel Prize in the 1950s, when he used to live in Havana).
So, many of us have never tasted the real Cuban mojito. In fact, in Italy and almost in every part of the world, we used to drink a kind of mint caipirissima. The authentic mojito of Cuba does not require lime, sugar, and mint to be mashed, while the ice must not be chopped.
So let’s see how a real Cuban mojito is prepared.
The preparation of the authentic Mojito from Cuba
Before seeing the steps, let’s put ingredients and quantities on the table.
For your modern draque you will need:
4 cl of white rum
3 cl of fresh lime juice
6 sprigs of hierbabena (but if you are preparing it at home, and your home is in Milan and not in Havana, you can also use mint)
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
Soda or sparkling water
Take a tumbler (the glass used for the preparation of cocktails and often used to shake everything, even what you shouldn’t) and add sugar, lime juice, rum and mint (the “Mojito Special”, of which Hemingway was mad, foresaw two different types of rum, the white and the dark). Now, mix everything by gently pressing the mint/hierba buena leaves. Be careful: do not use the pestle as if it were a mallet: gently press means “gently press.” Clear? Perfect. Once the ingredients are mixed, add the ice cubes. Why don’t Cubans use the chopped one? Because it melts immediately and in less than no time your mojito will be all water. But you know it well: in the various bathing establishments or the disco, it always happens like this. After the ice, add the water and the soda and finish decorating your mojito with a sprig of mint. Done.
That’s all? Yes, that’s all. The true Cuban mojito is much simpler than the European one, which does not require a degree in astrophysics to prepare it. Of course, the difference will be made by the ingredients and their quality (the great bartenders pay attention even to the composition of the frozen water in the cubes, as well as to their shape).
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)