Cuba’s mojito is probably the most refreshing rum cocktail out there. The mix of white rum, white sugar, fresh mint, fresh lime juice, and soda water feels complex but it’s actually pretty simple. Well, that’s true when we’re talking about mojitos in a classic sense. Since bar culture has exploded around the world, every other bartender seems to have a take, trick, or, worse, “shortcut” for making a good mojito.
They’re often overdone. So today, we’re bringing it back to the old school. Ours is a classic mojito, tried and true.
While the concoction of sugar cane distillate, sugar, lime, and mint goes back at least 500 years (and likely much more), the modern version is a little younger. We’re going to look at the mojito that launched the whole movement. La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana has been serving classic mojitos the same way since 1942. The recipe (which they actually put on their menu) is so dialed in that Ernest Hemingway only drank his mojitos from the famed watering hole when he lived in Cuba.
This is a pretty low-impact cocktail to make. You can make it more complicated by adding this or that or over garnishing. But at its heart, the mojito is a build-in-the-glass smash that takes less than a minute. And it’s so goddamn delicious, refreshing, and light.
- 2-oz. white rum
- 1 barspoon white sugar
- 1-oz. fresh lime juice (about one-half of a lime)
- 2 sprigs of fresh mint
- 3-oz. soda water
As for the rum … well, you’re likely not going to find Havana Club 3-Anos in the U.S. right now. That’s a shame. It’s a great white rum that spends three years mellowing in oak, giving it a slight bronze hue. That really is the expression you should always make this drink with. Since you likely cannot, I’d recommend using another aged white rum like Diplomatic Planas (aged six years in oak). It’s a deeply beautiful white rum that carries that oak vibe (vanilla, tobacco, spices) into the cocktail. You can snag a bottle for around $30 here.
Let’s talk about the sugar for a moment. The bar I came up in actually imported the same white sugar from Cuba that La Bodeguita del Medio uses (yes, seriously). Again, since you can’t get that in the U.S., I’d suggest a fine granulated white sugar. You want something that’ll dissolve quickly in the mix of water and lime. Of course, a lot of bars will use simple syrup instead of granulated sugar to speed things up in the mixing process (especially on an assembly line). But it’s really not that necessary or that much faster.
Use fresh lime juice that’s been strained of pulp and good fresh mint. I got my mint with a fairly large leaf. If you get mint with the smaller leaves (think the size of a thumbnail), use three or four sprigs.
Lastly, for the water, I’m using San Pellegrino. It has a pretty sharp fizz but soft texture. The water they use at La Bodeguita del Medio tends to be about the same, though a little less fizzy.
What You’ll Need:
- Highball glass (or Collins glass)
- Hand juicer
- Small strainer
- Add sugar, lime juice, and mint sprigs (remove the main stem) to the glass in that order.
- Add the soda water.
- Use the handle of the muddler to stir and bruise the mint. Make sure not to grind the mint at all but sort of gently hit it against the inside of the glass. After about 20 seconds, the sugar should be dissolved.
- Add the rum (I do a six-count pour from a bottle with a spout, which is what they do at La Bodeguita del Medio).
- Fill with ice.
- Add the straw and stir well to combine.
That’s a delicious mojito, right there! I’m biased, as I’ve had this mojito from La Bodeguita del Medio (several times) and have very fond memories, but who’s going to argue with a classic? There’s no fussiness at all. It’s incredibly refreshing from top to bottom.
The marrying of the sugar and lime creates a bit of a lime soda vibe while the mint livens everything up. The rum brings in a slight sugar cane rum energy, with a barely noticeable alcohol note.
Of course, you can garnish this with more fresh mint sprigs and the crushed lime halves in the glass. Hell, I’ve had it garnished with a dried Cuban tobacco leaf before, which was surprisingly awesome. But you really don’t need anything else — this already a perfect drink.