"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 made famous by Papa Hemingway that most famous of drinkers and bon-vivants, a Daiquirí in the latter, and in the former, a mojito as he is famously quoted to have said, though the truth is he rarely visited La Bodeguita del Medio.

The mojito is roughly a Caribbean version of the Mint Julep that substitutes rum for bourbon. They were in all likelihood developed in parallel, fed by the oppressive humid heat of the bayous of Louisiana and the swamps of the Cienaga de Zapata near Havana. 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 in 1586. 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 when rum 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. Mojito

Put sugar and lime juice in a tall cocktail glass. Muddle a few fresh yerbabuena leaves (a mild 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.