Another Mojito Day went by on Saturday and fans of perhaps the most popular cocktails in the world raised a toast to the reckless journey of the cocktail from its early days under the scorching sun in Cuba to the form it's taken today.
But history says the drink has had myriad births.
One tale regales us with the repeated attempts of Richard Drake, the state-sponsored privateer aka the Queen's pirate to conquer Havana, Cuba in 1586. But it was not easy.
Not only did his soldiers fail to make it, but they also suffered a lot stricken by severe dysentery. Now they needed some desperate remedies. The small party that went ashore to see if they could find some local medicine returned with a few crude ingredients - aguardiente de cana (local moonshine made from sugarcane spirit), mint leaves, and plenty of limes. Out of them, they made a tonic for the ailment, scurvy, they were suffering from. Hardly convincing for the eye, but abracadabra the potion worked!
Though we know today that it was not the spirit but the lime that really worked up the magic to deal with scurvy, a disease that once terrorised seafarers, the drink they took struck a chord with the sailors. The sailors christened called the new magic potion El Draque, after the name of their leader.
In the 1800s, the cocktail was already popular among African slaves working in the sugarcane plantations of Cuba. But how did it get the name Mojito?
Mojo is an African word that means "to place a little spell," something that the deadly combination has been doing to its hardcore fans for more than five centuries. Or maybe the name came from the Spanish word, 'mojadito,' that means 'a little wet.'
The cocktail would have died with hardly a whimper right in its birthplace, Cuba along with slavery, had it not received the Midas touch of a giant born in the same country in the 19th century.
Rum, known as kill devil was a dark pungent spirit, born as a byproduct in the molasses and sugar industry. Initially, it was so crude a drink that it couldn't aspire to go beyond the small circles of African slaves who distilled it to drown their sorrows after a hard day's work in the plantations of Cuba and other Caribbean islands. Could it someday share space with classy spirits like brandy and whiskey?
All such doubts were cast to the wind when in 1862 when Don Facundo Bacardi Masso established the legendary Bacardi Limited in Cuba. Running the spirit through charcoal filters and other strict measures, Bacardi proved to the world that rum could be turned to liquid gold with proper attention and expertise.
Mojito too was born to stay.
Once Bacardi became a hit Don Facundo turned his attention to reinvent the classic Cuban cocktail first by knocking off the crude aguardiente from the recipe replacing it with Bacardi Carta Blanca White Rum. Bacardi Mojito was born. What a journey for that crude cocktail, from the rugged El Draque that saved the lives of sailors stranded on the shores of Havana some three hundred years ago.
The history of mojito is not complete without mentioning the contributions of legendary writer, Ernest Hemingway (and later our pop culture icon, James Bond).
During the 1930s Heminway took occasional breaks from writing to immerse himself in the ambience of two hotels - El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana. They both got iconic status, thanks to his presence. Hemingway famously declared in a plaque displayed today in La Bodiquita: "My Mojito in La Bodiguita, my Daiquiri in El Floridita." No wonder the hotel is still a favourite haunt for both mojito fans as well as Hemingway followers who visit Cuba.
Today mojito is one of the most famous cocktails in the world. Want to taste it the Bacardi way? Here are a couple of recipes Hemant Mundkur, brand ambassador of Bacardi India has curated for our palate:
- 50 ml BACARDÍ Carta Blanca Rum 4 lime wedges
- 10 fresh mint leaves
- 20 ml sugar syrup
- 25 ml soda water/club soda Sprig of fresh mint
Glassware: Highball glass
Garnish: Mint sprig
Take the lime wedges and squeeze them in the glass and add sugar syrup. Gently press together the limes and sugar with a muddler.
Bruise the mint leaves by clapping them between your palms, rub them on the rim of the glass and drop them in.
Next, half fill the glass with crushed ice, add the BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum and stir.
Top with crushed ice, a sprig of mint and club soda.
2. Watermelon Basil Mojito
- 50 ml BACARDÍ Carta Blanca 3 to 4 chunks watermelon
- 2 to 3 basil leaves
- 20 ml Fresh Lime Juice
- 15 ml Sugar Syrup
Glassware: old fashioned glass
Garnish: Basil leaves sprig a watermelon wedge
Take watermelon, sugar, and lime and muddle gently in an old-fashioned glass.
Bruise the basil leaves by clapping them between your palms, rub them on the rim of the glass and drop them in.
Next, fill the glass with crushed ice, add BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum and stir.
Top with crushed ice, a splash of club soda and garnish with basil leaves sprig and watermelon wedge.