DOTW: Mojito

Posted by Anita on 07.13.07 7:04 AM

(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reservedWhen I read Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recent post outlining his list of Dos and Donts of Mojitos, I found myself nodding in vigorous agreement. When I got to this entry, I broke into a wide grin:

Do not order a mojito when the weather is below 70°F. This is almost as bad as ordering a Bloody Mary after the sun has gone down.”

Hear, hear.

I can’t tell you how many winter nights I’ve spent at the Zig Zag watching Murray Stenson painstakingly craft mojitos for some clueless clown. The phenomenon became so epidemic a few years ago that Cameron and I were moved to concoct an alternative, off-season rum drink for Murray to offer. (It’s an amateurish thing called the Wonderland — as in “Walking in a Winter…” and Murray graciously humors us by keeping the recipe in the box behind the bar.)

It’s hard to fault a mojito aficionado from defying the seasonal mandate at the Zig Zag, because when it comes to mojito-making, Murray’s method is a sight to behold. Cameron likes to remark that Murray puts more love into a single cocktail than most restaurants put into a whole meal, and I am convinced that he was witnessing a mojito-muddling marathon for the first time when he coined that oh-so-true aphorism.

As Morgenthaler correctly cautions, a mojito is no drink to order when your fellow tipplers are three-deep at the bar. Even the most slap-dash mojito is a time-consuming order. But making ‘Mojitos a la Murray’ elevates the procedure to high art.

Murray starts out by cutting half a lime into quarters, placing the pieces in a pint glass with half a dozen mint leaves and simple syrup. Crushed ice is added, and muddling commences. Six more mint leaves join the party, along with another dose of syrup and more ice. More muddling. Another dose of mint — this time sans syrup — and still more muddling. Then the rum, and a purposeful stir while surveying the bar. Tasting for balance, he tinkers with his creation until he achieves the ideal balance of sweet, sour, and strength; it rarely needs much to bring it to perfection. Out of his pile of mint, he chooses one more perfect sprig, dusting it with a flurry of powdered sugar before placing it jauntily in the glass, and handing the drink over to the suitably awed customer.

Both Murray and Jeffrey adhere to the unstrained school of mojito mixology: “I leave the ‘salad’ in place,” says Mr. Stenson. My muddling technique must be a bit weak; I haven’t yet mastered the fine art of extracting sufficient mint flavor without creating a pulpy mess, even when using Murray’s step-by-step directions and the prescribed copious amounts of greenery. So, as a compromise, I follow the ‘Murray Method’ right up to the end, but then strain the muddled mixture into an ice-filled cooler glass. A few small bits of mint find their way through the strainer, creating a pleasantly herb-flecked drink with plenty of punch.

Murray also dispenses with the traditional top-up of soda water; his masterful muddling provides the just the right opportunity for dilution. I like a bit of fizz, myself (as does Morgenthaler), but let your cocktail conscience be your guide on this point, as always.

MxMo 17 logo(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved

1/2 lime
1T simple syrup, or to taste
18 medium mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
2 oz silver rum
good-quality soda water (optional)
confectioners sugar (optional)

Cut the lime-half into quarters, and muddle in a 16-oz glass along with 6 medium mint leaves and 1/4 ounce (1-1/2 tsp) simple syrup. Add crushed ice to one quarter of the way up the glass. Add 6 more mint leaves and another 1/4 ounce simple syrup; muddle again. Add crushed ice to a level about 2/3 up the glass, plus remaining 6 mint leaves (no simple syrup this round); muddle yet again. Add the rum and stir until the glass begins to frost. Adjust to taste, then strain the chilled mixture into an ice-filled 12-ounce highball or cooler glass. Top up with a splash of soda water, if desired. Garnish with a sprig of mint, dusted with confectioners sugar, if desired.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, Mixology Monday, other blogs, recipes



Comment by Sean

At least as sad an effect from the mojito fad of ’04 was the many bastard permutations that arose — mojitos made with various fruits, or vanilla rum, or not rum at all — all of which definitionally render the drink NOT a mojito. People are not happy to leave well enough alone sometimes.

I used to like the mojitos at Lime when they first opened; the somehow managed to crank them out with alarming speed yet still maintain a sufficient degree of mojito goodness. But before long, their flair slipped — I think the bar staff changed over completely — and they slid into a long blur of oversweet pap. Ech.

Posted on 07.13.07 at 8:55AM

Comment by GG Mora

“Do not order a mojito when the weather is below 70°F. This is almost as bad as ordering a Bloody Mary after the sun has gone down.”

The worst offense, I think, is ordering a Brandy Alexander with dinner.

You’ve just reminded me that I need to address the dearth of mint in my garden (mint being an all-or-nothing proposition for the gardener). In the meantime, I’m sure I can find a neighbor who would gladly part with a few sprigs; it’s certainly mojito weather here.

Posted on 07.13.07 at 12:06PM

Comment by Bill

I’ve always thought these sorts of prohibitions were just sort of silly. I mean, I love a bloody mary and a mojito: if I want one in winter or evening or France or on a Thursday or sitting next to a fat guy, why shouldn’t I have the drink I like best? The world’s a pretty elitist place sometimes. Does it have to be elitist when I’m buying a drink, too?

Posted on 07.13.07 at 5:44PM

Comment by Anita

Bill, darling: Relax — have a cocktail.

I’m not sure where you get the idea that a humorous set of lighthearted ‘rules’ are elitist. This isn’t a class issue… unless there’s some cabal of well-heeled hipsters running into dive bars smacking unsuitable cocktails out of the hands of the underclasses.

Nobody said “don’t have a Mojito in winter”; if you’re in Cuba in January, it may very well be quite balmy.

I guess it boils down to the fact that I’m a big fan of eating (and drinking) seasonally — tomatoes, corn, and mojitos in the summer; eggnog, braises, and butterscotch pudding in the winter.

But if you want to order up a mint julep when it’s snowing or an Irish coffee during a heatwave, be my guest. Just don’t be surprised when your bartender smirks. :D

Posted on 07.13.07 at 5:56PM

Comment by Jason Truesdell

I really prefer to see mojitos with the mint bruised against granulated sugar at the bottom of the glass, rather than those made with simple syrup. Of course, not all the sugar dissolves, but it’s hard to beat that technique for extracting fresh mint flavor.

Posted on 07.13.07 at 6:14PM

Comment by Dr. Biggles

AHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAH, drink snob! Excellent. I’ve never had a mojito. Not sure if I could. See, someone in the past planted mint in MY garden. It grows like a weed and so far, I’ve not been able to get rid of it. I fight with Mint on a regular basis. Toss back a few strong beverages and grab a large, heavy, steely farm implement and have at it. So far, Biggles 0/Mint 15.

Why do I not want it there? I dunno, blind rage I suppose.


Posted on 07.16.07 at 12:51PM

Comment by Anita

Sean: Tinkering, good. Bastardization, bad.

GG: We can’t grow mint to save our souls here, but I’d suggest a container planting… unless you want to end up like Biggles, overrun with minty vermin.

Jason: Hm, that’s a thought. I was thinking about a mint syrup, too… cold-steeped, to get the fresh taste.

Doc: Here’s a thought — “When life gives you mint, make mojitos.”

Posted on 07.16.07 at 1:00PM

Comment by murray stenson

Simple syrup gives a consistent, balanced drink, start to finish. Granulated sugar never completely dissolves, leaving sips of too sweet. Most people over muddle the mint/granulated, bruising the mint, for a bitter mojito.

Posted on 07.17.07 at 12:06PM

Pingback by The Cocktail Chronicles » Blog Archive » The Mushiest MxMo Ever

[...] Anita and Cameron at Married … with Dinner whopped up a bunch of mojitos, following the 15-minute preparation routine perfected by Murray Stenson and recently blogged about by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Yes, they take a long time to make, but oh, so good, so good. [...]

Posted on 07.17.07 at 3:05PM

Comment by Jason Truesdell

Murray: I’ve never been lucky enough to have that problem. Most Seattle bars end up ruining the mojito by making a huge batch of flavored syrup ahead of time, and they use so much of it that the drink tastes more of sugar than of lime.

Very fresh mint doesn’t normally get very bitter. I think only the last sip or so of the Cuban has “too sweet” a character for me.

However, those looking to avoid potential bitterness could use the even more traditional powdered sugar, which would generally only bruise gently.

Posted on 07.20.07 at 8:13PM

Comment by Melissa

The best Mojito is in Durango Co. at East by Southwest. Enjoy anytime of year.

Posted on 07.25.07 at 12:42PM

Comment by Anita

Not that I think most of you need a reminder, but — having just deleted three outrageously rude comments — I suppose I’d better mention this for future trolls:

We encourage discussion… even dissent. We’ll never delete a comment just because we disagree. (See Bill’s remark above?) But posting personal attacks is just a waste of time.

And really, it’s just a food blog. So small, you can’t even see it from space.

Posted on 07.13.07 at 6:06PM

Comment by zia

Dare I post my mojito recipe here? Will the purists flame me? I’ll risk it …

1 old-fashioned glass orange juice squeezer (the flat kind you twist the orange on)
Enough lime juice to fill squeezer (about 1 large)
Enough rum to fill squeezer and get all limey bits off
1-2 TB mint jelly that you made last year and have no idea what to do with
1 dash angostura bitters
6 large mint leaves from garden, rinsed and torn into bits (not crushed).
Ice–lots of it.

Throw everything into a martini shaker (or if you’re at the end bit of the mint jelly jar, which is going surprisingly fast now that Steve is drinking one of these a night, use that.) Shake, shake, shake. This bruises the mint.

Decant entire contents into glass.

Posted on 08.09.07 at 12:00PM

Comment by Anita

I kinda like it, Zia. :)

It’s true to the original spirit, and jam-based cocktails are all the rage.

Posted on 08.09.07 at 12:30PM

Comment by zia

Wow, I’m hip. Who knew?

Posted on 08.11.07 at 1:44PM

Pingback by First Saturday of Summer / Curry Broccoli Salad « (not so) Urban Hennery

[...] row (never plant mint somewhere it can’t take over). The guys were hilarious trying to use Anita’s recipe read on my iPhone. One of the funniest scenes in this kitchen, [...]

Posted on 07.11.10 at 2:18PM

Pingback by Cocktail Night III: Refreshing Rum Drinks « Tempered Spirits

[...] more complex and finicky methods abound. Murray Stenson, from the Zig Zag Café in Seattle, has a layered, built method documented at Married With Dinner. Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a few words to say on the subject, as well, and provides his go-to recipe, [...]

Posted on 11.10.11 at 5:02PM

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