"El mojito es una pequeña Cuba: Azúcar, ron, vegetación y frío artificial"
(The mojito is a small Cuba: Sugar, rum, vegetation and artificial cold.)
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
La Bodeguita del Medio is about a fifteen minute walk from El Floridita in Habana Vieja, the old colonial center of the city. Together they form a dyptich of bars where you could find Papa Hemingway having a drink every day with almost religious fervor, a Daiquirí in the latter, and in the former, a mojito.
The mojito is roughly a Caribbean
version of the Mint Julep
that substitutes rum
. They were in all likelihood developed in parallel, fed by the oppressive humid heat of the bayou
s of Louisiana
and the swamp
s of the Cienaga de Zapata
. Though the origin of the drink is often credited to the Bodeguita around the 1930s
, it has in all likelihood older roots. One story traces the origin to a cocktail invented by a pirate named Richard Drake
(not to be confused with the privateer Sir Francis Drake
) in Havana
. Made with aguardiente
(literally flaming water, the unrefined precursor of rum
), sugar, lime and mint, it was called a Draque
and was refined in the 1800s
became available. The name mojito
could come from a corruption of mojadito
(a little wet) or a diminutive of mojo
(a seasoning sauce used in cuban cuisine) or some have even said that mojo
is an African
word meaning to cast a spell. Whatever the origin of the name, the drink is beguiling and tropical.
Put sugar and lime juice in a tall cocktail glass. Muddle a few fresh yerbabuena leaves (a Cuban mint almost impossible to find outside of ethnic markets in Miami and parts of New Jersey so substitute with mint) into the sugar and the lime juice, preferably with a wood pestle. Add one ounce of white rum, the bitters and ice cubes. Top off the glass with soda water, stir well and serve with a sprig of mint. Very chi-chi bars will also add a long thin cutting of sugar cane as a stirrer, this is, strictly speaking, an affectation, but fun to chew nonetheless.
The end result looks like swamp dredgings over ice making it one of the ugliest cocktails you will ever have. It is however a little piece of Cuba in a glass, in other words, a slice of heaven.