Mojitos and Other Drinks I Love...

Mojito

I first tasted a Mojito in Havana, Cuba while staying at the Hotel Nacional. I saw one handed to the couple sitting next to us at the pool and asked the waiter what it was. It turns out to be something of the national drink there. There's nothing like the light and refreshing taste of a Mojito when you're out in the hot sun.

I had the opportunity on my crazy month long Caribbean trip to try Mojitos at three places in Cuba, once in New Orleans at Emeril's NOLA (the best I've ever had), and have taken to making them here at home. The trick that set NOLA's apart is that you have to thoroughly bruise the mint leaves to release all of their flavor. The "muddler" referred to below can simply be the back of a spoon, and will help to accomplish the same effect. It also helps to let the drink sit for a little while, as it becomes more minty that way. Different tastes will desire differing amounts of sugar versus lime as well. Finally, they seem to taste better when drunk from bottom to top with a straw rather than top to bottom by sipping.

Hotel Nacional Pool, Havana, Cuba

Here's Bob, smoking a Havana poolside, minutes before tasting his first Mojito!

The Mojito is very light and refreshing, and is prepared as follows:

  Mojito  
 

Ingredients, per drink:

2 ounces light rum

1 ounce lime juice

3 teaspoons sugar

Fresh Mint

Soda Water

 
 

Pull the mint leaves from the stems and chop up the leaves.

Place sugar, and mint in a mortar and pestle. Work the mixture into an almost-paste, grinding the juices out of the leaves and into the sugar. This gives the most minty taste.

Take a pitcher, and pour the rum into it. I usually don't measure, and just pour rum as though the pitcher were an imaginary big glass I'm mixing up a rum and coke in.

Add the sugar/mint mix on top of that, and then pour in the lime juice. Stir. If you manage to dissolve all of the sugar, you will need to add more sugar. If you want something that looks a little fancier, you can skip the store bought lime juice and fill the pitcher with lime halves after squeezing the juice first.

I leave this mixture steeping in the pitcher to get all the mint flavor in, for about 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, put ice in glasses, fill halfway from the pitcher, top off with soda water (tonic will work in a pinch), and garnish with a wedge of lime. For the squeamish, you can strain the mint leaves out. The Cubans just chew and swallow them.

Special thanks to my Father-in-law, the Chemical Engineer, for suggesting the mortar and pestle, as well as straining the mint leaves.

 

Hotel Nacional, Havana, Cuba

Mojito as Canvas

I was in a bar one time and chatting with the bar tender who had made me a wonderful Mojito. I was asking for his secrets and he let me know that among Latino bar tenders, the Mojito was a canvas, much as the Martini has been a canvas for so many. Ever since that time, I have always been on the lookout for interesting variations.

One of the easiest is a mango-infused mojito. Simply use Parrot Bay (or similar) mango-infused rum instead of whatever rum you are used to using. The exotic mango flavor goes well with the mojito!

Cosmopolitans & Other Chick-Tinis

Our good friends Edna and Steve introduced us to the Cosmopolitan, a form of Martini, and we have really grown to love it. They're very simple to make and wonderfully refreshing. Rumor has it that the Cosmopolitan was invented by Dale DeGroff at New York's posh Rainbow Room. Given their gorgeous Art Deco style, and Chihuly glass art, it's an establishment I'd like to visit someday. DeGroff originally made it with Absolut Citron, BTW.

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce cranberry juice
dash of lime juice
dash of sugar

Place these ingredients in a Martini shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold and pour into Martini glasses. Cool, refreshing, and sweet, but they really pack a kick! If you are desperate for a Cosmopolitan, but have no Cointreau, Triple Sec will do in a pinch. Grand Marnier can also be quite good in these. If you want a real connoisseur's version, substitute Absolut Black Currant Vodka (this is sometimes called a "Metropolitan") for the basic stuff. Some people leave off the sugar, preferring the drink to be a little more tart. If you want to step up the vodka, I have also seen versions that had 1/2 ounces of cranberry and Cointreau, but that's getting a little too intense for me! Garnish with a lemon twist, or orange, if you like.

Lemon Drop Martini

One of the tastiest members of the Chick-tini family.

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce lemon juice
teaspoon sug
ar or simple syrup to taste

Ideally, serve in a sugar rimmed glass. Most recipes do not call for Cointreau, but I think it gives the Lemon Drop a richer flavor.

Pomegranate Martini

Ahhhh, the world of Chick-tinis, I love 'em!

What's a Chick-tini? Well, any sweet or flavored martini counts in my book. The Cosmopolitan is the ruling matriarch of the breed, but these Pomegranate Martinis are very tasty as well, and trendy too from time to time as people like Oprah are drinking them.

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce pomegranate juice
dash of fresh squeezed lime
sug
ar or simple syrup to taste

Herbal Advice Martini

The inspiration for this cocktail came from a cocktail of the same name that I first had in 2016 at Bella Saratoga, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Saratogo. It's a more savory cocktail (definitely not a Chicktini!), and so it's great to have before food. Sweet cocktails will impair your palate. The bar tender who invented the drink there was quite proud of it and as much as dared me to try to make one. I doubt if I have exactly his ingredients, but my guests who've had both agree this one is at least as good and definitely along the same lines.

3 parts Acai Berry Vodka. Absolut has one that's nice.
2 parts Domain Canton
2 parts Ginger Beer
Simple Syrup to taste
2 Sage Leaves, bruised, and floating on top

Orange Breeze

Another invention of the talented Dale DeGroff of New York's Rainbow Room.

2 parts vodka (best with Stolichnaya Ohranj)
1 part Cointreau
4 parts fresh orange juice
4 parts cranberry juice
dash of sugar

Serve over ice in a goblet.

Gluhwein

Pronounced "glue-vine", this German and Austrian favorite is hot spiced wine. We like it on cold wintery days, and especially for Christmas. It was invented in the ski lodges of the Alps long ago.

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1 stick of cinnamon

2 whole cloves

juice of 2 lemons

1 bottle of light red wine

Bring water, sugar, and spices to a full boil in a casserole. Add lemon juice and red wine and bring it right up to the boiling point. Don't let it boil as the alcohol will evaporate. Add more lemon juice or sugar according to your personal taste. Typically, the cheaper the wine used, the more sugar is called for! And don't be afraid to use really cheap wine.

Remove the cinnamon and cloves. Keep casserole on the stove at low setting. Serve in a mug piping hot.

Sangria

This Spanish/Mexican concoction is perfect for a hot day by the ocean or pool. Fantastic with spicy food. This is a better recipe than any I've tried anywhere else, and I've tried a lot of Sangria. BTW, if you don't have time to make the Sangria, buy bottles of Reál Sangria, which is a tasty ready-made substitute.

1 1/2 cups rum

1/2 cup sugar

1 thinly sliced orange

1 thinly sliced lemon

1 thinly sliced lime

1 bottle red wine (get the cheaper stuff, we like inexpensive Zinfandel)

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Mix together the rum and sugar in a large pitcher, making sure the sugar dissolves. Add the sliced fruit and let sit for 2 to 6 hours in the refrigerator. The alcohol in the rum will become infused with the fruit flavors during this time. Right before serving, add the red wine and orange juice. Stir well and serve very cold. Ahhhhhhh!

Homemade Ginger Ale with Ginger Candy

I love the taste of ginger. I'm one of those folks at sushi places who constantly needs more. I love candied ginger, and I love real, homemade ginger ale, the kind where you really taste the spice! Here is a remarkably simple recipe for homemade ginger ale with ginger candy.

2 cup ginger slices, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
soda water
mint sprigs or lime to garnish

Mix the ginger, sugar, and water in a saucepan and simmer low. Reduce the mixture until it reaches a syrupy consistency. It will thicken some more after it cools, so don't reduce too much. You can also gauge it by taste.

Once you get the desired consistency, strain out the slices and save the syrup. Put the slices on a cookie sheet and coat them completely with sugar. Put them in a 225 degree oven to dry them out. They probably don't need too much drying, so under 1 hour.

To make ginger ale, mix the syrup in the glasses: 1 part syrup, 7 parts soda water. Stir, add ice, and garnish with mint and/or lime. Ginger is an ideal digestiv, being beneficial to settling the stomach. If you're ever on a boat and prone to a little queasiness, bring some of the candied ginger.

Delicious and refreshing!

Mango Rum Punch

1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 limes, juiced
1 cup ice
12 ozs. Captain Morgan's spiced rum

Puree the mango, sugar, orange, and lime juice in a blendar and keep the mixture on ice. For each drink, place three ounces of the mixture with two ounces of spiced rum in a shaker. Shake vigorously, pour, and garnish with lime wedge.

Very refreshing in a tropical island sort of way!

Mike Cichon's "Southside Special" Margaritas

Mike is a good friend of mine from Chicago (hence the "Southside Special") who turned me on to this wonderful margarita recipe. Citronge is an orange liqueur made by Padron, the tequila people. He recommends Hornitos for all blended margaritas. Why? He was a bartender and says this is the best grade of 100% Blue Agave tequila to use for mixed drinks. Anything more expensive will be lost. Anything much less and you're missing out. I can't argue with perfection after tasting these!

This recipe makes 2 margaritas:

3 jiggers Hornitos Tequila
1 1/2 jiggers Padron Citronge
2 jiggers lime juice, fresh squeezed if you have it
2 tablespoons simple syrup
3 handfuls of ice

Gran Marnier "float" to taste

Mix all that up in a blender, rim your glasses with salt, and you're ready to go. Add the Gran Marnier last. It's called a "float". You pour it in until the drink is just slightly golden, or to taste. You'll be amazed at how the Gran Marnier blends and smooths the tastes. Technically speaking, since Gran Marnier is a cognac, we're making a sidecar here, but what the heck, it's a fancy margarita.

This is a wonderful drink to have with Mexican food, or even a bowl of chili.

BTW, simple syrup is made with 2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Heat the water until the sugar is dissolved. Rim your glasses by dippng the rim in limejuice and then salt.

Bob's Swamp Tea

I first had this cocktail at Pappadeux's Cajun restaurant in Houston where it was called "Bayou Sweet Tea". They didn't offer the recipe, so I've had to improvise.

4 parts Tea Infused Vodka
3 parts Lemonade
1 part Cointreau

Serve it as you would iced tea in a tall glass with plenty of ice, a slice of lemon, and a slice of orange. And the next time you're enjoyin' a heaping helping of our hospitality, you may be passed a big ole jelly jar filled with ice and what looks like lemonade. Don't worry. It's not moonshine, it's just a little dose of Bob's Swamp Tea. We'll get back to work tomorrow. Meanwhile, kick your shoes off and sit a spell.

Ya'll come back now, hear?

Note: Lots of Tea Infused Vodka available as I write this. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka is wonderful, but hard to get some places. Absolut Wild Tea is not a bad substitute, though it is clear so won't look so much like tea.

 

 

 

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All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.