In Sean's Ph.D. program, there lives a British lad named Harold Thorrington, all of 22 or 23 years of age. Of course his name is Harold Thorrington, for he is so very, very British, and of course his mates call him Harry. Harry Thorrington looks like the cuddly-button love child of Tony Blair and Paddington Bear. Really, his name is just so terribly goddamned British -- the very utterance of it makes me want to punch a crumpet.
Like many British blokes with few years and countless pints under their pudgy belts, Harry (who really is quite lovely and keeps me in stitches, I must say) only knows how to drink one way: More. Before the holidays, he confessed to me the three cocktails he'd ever consumed, at least to his recollection: a mojito, a Cosmopolitan and... oh, pish posh, I can't remember the third. Doesn't matter. The point is, I assured him he'd certainly had very bad versions of those drinks, wherever he'd had them, and I resolved to make him the World's Greatest versions soon.
I am the master mojito maker. Ask anyone who's ever had one of mine at The Royale in St. Louis. Facebook
posts odes have been composed in humble praise of my mojitos! Texts are sent across thousands of wireless miles, expressing dismay that I am no longer located in the Central time zone, where I would be called upon to fashion the birthday mojitos of aging Midwesterners! And yet I've never mentioned my mojito mojo here. Why? Because mojito-making magic isn't held in high esteem as it was six-ish years ago. It's like bragging that you finally figured out all the lyrics to "I Like the Way You Move."
And yet! The fact remains that mojitos are fantastic when properly made -- "one of the world's greatest [Ed. note: Told ya!] and most refreshing cocktails," to quote one source -- and certainly their reputation as the unofficial cocktail of Cuba is buttressed by enough history to trump whatever flyspeck of uncoolness they might be yoked with at this particular nanomoment in pop culture. Fucking Hemingway himself once wrote, "It wasn't just a drink. It was a symbol of national pride." Harry Thorrington thinks you're a wanker if you don't agree.
The World's Greatest Mojito
(You can find recipes any and everywhere; this one comes straight from my heart, and muscle memory, during my time at The Royale)
1 1/2 to 2 ounces 10 Cane rum
About 6-10 fresh mint leaves, depending on size
Half a lime
About a tablespoon of simple syrup
Grabbing the mint leaves as a bunch between thumb and forefinger, tear them once through and drop into the bottom of a highball glass. Squeeze lime onto leaves, then drop it into glass as well. Cover all of this with your tablespoon (more if needed) of simple syrup. Muddle, muddle, muddle! Fill with ice. Pour in rum. Fill with club soda. Give a gentle stir or two with a bar spoon or swizzle stick before drinking.
The details are most important when making a mojito. Different mojito recipes will call for a Collins glass, a soda glass, something fat and round, something tall and slim. I like a highball glass, by which I mean, a glass in which you'd be served a liquor, neat. (I don't mean a shot glass.) I don't make my mojitos like they're coolers to sip through a straw, I make them like they're cocktails meant to be sipped slowly. Through your lips. Like a grownup. Jesus.
I suggest 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of rum in case you do have to use a larger glass, or if you want a stronger-tasting mojito. Some people like to taste the rum more when they drink mojitos.
As I do with my mint juleps, I use just enough leaves to completely cover the bottom of the glass, and I tear them all exactly once. Some people say never to tear mint leaves because you're "bruising" them and this can actually sour the taste of the mint. I say, save that shit for Temple Grandin. (She developed cow-slaughtering systems to make beef taste better, see, by... you know what, forget it, probably a bad example.)
Anyway, what's important is that as soon as you get your leaves and lime down in the bottom of the glass, cover it all with the simple syrup so that all your flavor molecules stay trapped under a syrup blanket instead of wafting up and out of the glass. Muddle until you're sick of muddling; listen for the crunch of the leaves' veins, and muddle the lime to get more juice out of it. (That is the fun part.)
Don't use mint-infused simple syrup, because it's got a brownish-green tint that the white rum won't be able to mask and your cocktail will look like sewage. If you really insist on using mint-infused syrup, then make a special batch where you're letting the mint leaves steep in the syrup only until the second you start to see a coloration.
Use regular ice cubes.
Use 10 Cane white rum, or whatever white rum you like that's not Bacardi. Bacardi gives off a cheap aftertaste which can only be covered by overdoing it on the simple syrup. You don't want that. The 10 Cane is made from cane sugar (not cheapo molasses) and tastes very nice and clean.
Use fresh club soda!
In the end, you want the cocktail to have a cloudy look to it. This means you achieved a good ratio of ingredients and stirred a proper amount. Some mint leaves may inevitably climb up the glass but the majority of your leaves should definitely remain at the bottom. Don't worry if the drink tastes sweeter as you go, but it also shouldn't taste all-alcohol on the first sip.