I’ll have what he’s having. When James Bond sips on a refreshing looking cocktail a long a sun-soaked beach and offers it to a bikini-clad Bond girl, you want to stir it up yourself. This drink, the Mojito, was muddled and stirred for an appearance with Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Die Another Day (2002), and while this may have accounted for some its surge in popularity in recent year, its sweet yet refreshing citrus flavor and fresh mint no doubt have something to do with its staying power.
The origins of the Mojito, one of the most famous rum-based highballs, may be as muddled as the mint leaves floating throughout this cool cocktail. Some trace it back to the late 16th century and a medicinal drink named after Sir Francis Drake. Cuba was under Spanish rule and the story goes that the king of Spain had warned his governor in Cuba that he believed Drake intended to raid Havana to seize Aztec gold in the city’s royal treasury. Forces geared up and the city was defended. After several days, however, there was a surprised relief when Drake left Havana and its gold intact. But his visit was a major event – something perhaps worth of naming a drink after, notes Simon Difford in his Cocktails: The Bartender’s Bible.
Others say the drink didn’t have an association with Cuba originally but was invented onboard Drake’s ship and consumed for its perceived medicinal value. Sometimes spelled “Draque,” “Drak” or “Drac,” by the late 1890s, the local cane spirit in this drink was replaced with Bacardi rum and its popularity continued to grow – for more than medicinal uses.
Some say the mojito was invented during Cuba’s thriving bar culture in the early 20th century, and especially during Prohibition when Americans introduced locals to the mint julip (which is bourbon with mint leaves, sugar, and Angostura bitters.) Havana’s Bodeguita del Medico bar stakes claim as the birthplace of the mojito as we know it and notables including Ernest Hemingway enjoyed the drink there. A note reportedly signed by Hemingway reads: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.”
The origin of the name “Mojito” is also muddled. It may come from mojar, a Spanish word meaning “to wet,” or from the African word Mojo meaning “a spell.” No matter its origins, it is certainly spellbinding whether mixed up using the traditional recipe here or with your own flavored variations that stir in different fruit flavors using juices, liqueurs, or the new flavored rums on the market. If you would like to mix up a Royal Mojito, use champagne in place of the soda in the classic version.
- Mary Subialka for DRINKS Magazine
12 fresh mint leaves
2 ounces white rum
¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
½ ounce pure cane sugar syrup
club soda to top
Lightly muddle mint, just to bruise, in the base of a highball glass. Add rum, lime juice, and sugar. Half fill glass with crushed ice and stir with a bar spoon. Fill glass with more crushed ice and stir. Top with soda, stir, and serve with a straw, if desired.
Find this, and other recipes in the Spring DRINKS Magazine, available now at Surdyk’s.