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The Best Mojito in the World

April 29, 2014

[mojito] recipe porn

The Prologue: Here’s Your Fucking Mojito

As a bartender, I’ve always hated mojitos.

The very word “mojito” has the power to make me shudder. More often than not, I have to fight the urge to say “here’s your fucking mojito” when I drop one off. I know bartenders who have purposefully made horrific mojitos so they won’t be asked to make another — Splenda instead of sugar, Branca Menta instead of mint, etc — and I have celebrated these people as heroes.

I grind my teeth at the dictional and ontological contortions involved in the question, “do you have mojitos?,” and can’t help but scowl at the flinching apology face everyone always gives when they order them.

I really hate mojitos.

The weird thing is, it’s mostly vestigial. There was a time when it was the most annoying drink a bartender would be asked to make, but now it doesn’t even crack the top 20. And yet. Hate.

I can mutter about them them all day, however, and it will have no bearing whatsoever on their two eternal truths:

  1. Whether Havana in July or Manitoba in January, they will be ordered in all occasions until the end of time.
  2. Unlike a Long Island, or Tokyo Tea or Scooby Snack or any of the other drinks favored by that particular cohort, mojitos don’t suck. At all. Mojitos are, actually, intrinsically delicious.

Point #2 can be a problem all its own — if precision isn’t required to make a good drink, it’s too easy to be satisfied with good and not reach for great. And this is where our story begins.

The History:

I wrote it all out, but then erased it because I honestly don’t care. The mojito, like a whiskey sour or Tom Collins, isn’t invented so much as inevitable: mint grows where limes and sugar cane grow, and soda water because it’s damn hot outside. If, as a culture, you’ve got all that stuff and you never think to put them together, I’m sorry but you don’t get to come out to play.

Just know this: it’s from Cuba, and it shows up in print in the 30s. If you need more history than that, David Wondrich does the best job, as usual, here.

The only interesting thing is the etymology: mojar is the verb “to make wet” or “moisten,” and in Cuban Spanish, “mojo” means “sauce.” So a mojito is “a little sauce” or “a little wetness” which, if you remember that “dry” also can mean “without alcohol,” starts to make some sense.

The Good vs. The Great:

That Good vs. Great thing has always been my problem with mojitos. My recipe was fine, and certainly gets the job done, but I wanted better. And I thought, a few weeks ago, maybe I’d feel better about the drink if I knew, without a doubt, that my mojito was so goddamn delicious that that it would force people to stop and take notice. To tap their friend on the shoulder and say “you’ve got to try this.”

[mojito] three glasses

So I did experiments. A lot of them. And after at least 30 iterations spread over two weeks, I dialed in what I believe to be the best mojito recipe in the world, and in the process became tediously familiar with every ingredient, and all their variations.

The Principles:

I am operating under the assumption that the mojito is, first and most, a refreshing drink. That means it can’t be too sweet, lest it be cloying, nor too tart, or the mint won’t come out. It should be shaken — all the built-in-the-glass recipes, even over crushed ice, were too viscous.

It’s important to note that 95% of the drinks I made were good, and so some of this inevitably falls to personal taste. But following these principles, I set out to find the best.

The Players:

[mojito] ingredients

Rum. Limes. Sugar. Mint. Carbonated Water.

RUM: Flor de Cana 4yr silver rum

Use a Spanish style, clear/silver/white rum. What’s Spanish style? It’s an oversimplification of course, but if your rum is from a Spanish speaking country and/or is called “Ron,” it’s Spanish style. It will be light and clean. And probably <$20, which is even better.

An identical side-by-side with Flor de Cana (silver), Banks 5 (silver), Plantation 5 (amber), and El Dorado 15 (dark) yielded not just a winner, but an obvious winner. While Plantation 5 makes my favorite daiquiri, the unavoidable caramel/spice notes in aged rums have no business in tall, refreshing drinks. I love the funk of Banks 5, but it distracted the palate here. With the El Dorado one, a little more rum and less soda would’ve made a handsome drink, but a mojito it ain’t.

[mojito] rums

I then tried Flor de Cana, a 40%, fairly standard Nicaraguan rum, against the robust Caña Brava,at 43%. I earnestly expected Caña Brava to be the winner, and it was close… it seemed better at first, but after a minute and a little more dilution Flor de Cana surged ahead. To be clear: they were both deliriously good, but my guiding principle was refreshment, and in the end the extra ABV points on Caña Brava took away more than it added.

[mojito] lemon hart 151Just for kicks, I tried Wondrich’s recipe of floating a little Lemon Hart 151 on top. Still delicious, but it takes a clean drink and confuses the flavors. Not an improvement.

LIME: fresh lime juice

This was the least examined part, as there’s nothing even close to fresh lime juice. A bunch of cocktail nerds figured out a few years ago that the enzymatic bittering of juiced limes somehow mitigates a little of the lime’s sourness and that limes juiced 4 hours ago are better than limes fresh squeezed. If you feel like timing your drinking to stay 4 hours ahead of your lime juice, go with God. I wish you all the best.

MINT: 6-8 mint leaves, not muddled, shaken with ice in the drink

This was maybe my biggest surprise in the whole thing. It is gospel in the cocktail world: do not over muddle mint. “If you press it too hard,” they say, “you break the little capillaries in the mint leaf and release bitter chlorophyll, thereby ruining your drink.” I’ve lived by this law for years. Until I tried them side by side. One, I over muddled the mint. The other, gentle pressing. The gently pressed mint barely registered, and to my great surprise, the one I practically jackhammered, where I was expecting bitterness, instead presented a full, delicious mint flavor.

[mojito] over muddled mint

Then I shook the mint with ice, and my god: the mint flavor is so much more pervasive and intense, buttressing every point of the palate. Then I took about 3 minutes and tried to over muddle the mint. I muddled the silly fuck out of that mint, then shook it, and still there’s not a single off-putting note in the drink. You cannot overmuddle mint. Please, someone, prove me wrong.

Then, in the spirit of anti-stone-unturnedness, I tried mega mint: 20 leaves instead of 8. It was, predictably, too much. 6-10 leaves, or one small pinch, is magic.

Oh, and there’s no difference between muddling then shaking, and just shaking without muddling. I tried that too. Save yourself the step.

SUGAR: sugar cane, demerara or muscovado syrup

It’s too much with aged rum, but there’s something perfectly soft and subtle about those molassas flavors when they come from cane syrup, or a demerara/muscovado syrup. They are processed much less than white sugar, and add a rustic layer of personality, like a coat of dust on the harvest jeans.

As we learned with the Southside experiments, fresh mint is always better than mint syrup. But some recipes, like the Employees Only one, double down and use both fresh mint and mint syrup. After all, if mint is good, wouldn’t double mint double your delightment? The answer is no. The mint offers a clean flavor; adding mint syrup only muddies it up.

SPARKLING WATER: highly carbonated mineral water

[mojito] soda water back to backQ Soda and Fever Tree are the expensive good ones, and Topo Chico and Mineragua are the cheaper good ones. You want high carbonation and some dissolved sodium to make the flavors pop. If you want to know why, I did a best sparkling water write-up here.

ICE: crushed ice 

Even when you shake it (and you should), the drink benefits from crushed ice. It’s not strictly necessary, but it keeps the inside cold and well diluted, and the outside frosty. No matter the pace of your drinking, the recipe below will stay good to the end.

The Best Mojito In The World:

Look upon it, barkeeps, and despair.

Mojito
2oz Flor de Cana silver rum
0.75oz demerara or muscovado simple syrup (1:1)
0.75 fresh lime
2.5oz-3oz mineral water
6-10 mint leaves.
Add all ingredients except mineral water, including mint, to the shaker. Add ice, shake to high heaven for 10-12 seconds. Fine strain over crushed ice into a collins glass. Garnish with a mint sprig. Drink. Then find me, and shake my hand.

[mojito] glamour shot

Cheers.

57 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2014 10:20 am

    Great post. Excited to try out the recipe.

  2. June 8, 2014 3:47 pm

    This is awesome. My GM and I have been debating this for an eternity.

    • June 12, 2014 9:48 am

      Thanks! About the mint you mean? Yeah, imagine my surprise. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me I did it wrong, but the side-by-side can’t be ignored.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    June 8, 2014 4:10 pm

    Mojito means little spell, and it has been used to describe a mixture of aguardiente, mint & lime since the time of Sir Francis Drake when it was a common ship board remedy for ailments.

    • June 12, 2014 9:53 am

      I prefer the “little spell” or “little magic” definition as well, just because it’s cooler, but from everything I’ve read, the connection with sauce/wetness is a lot stronger. That being said, I’d love to be wrong. Have a source?

  4. June 8, 2014 7:36 pm

    Mojito thanks

  5. The Fox permalink
    June 17, 2014 10:13 am

    gimmeit.

  6. Diego permalink
    August 10, 2014 6:30 pm

    Following one tall 16oz. mojito with 2oz. Rum (including crushed ice displacement) I thought to look up mojito recipe, mojito station, then mojito top 5…and came upon your page. Good fuckin job…..and thank you for the hard work.

    Diego

  7. October 2, 2014 10:40 am

    first recipe to use a shaker for a mojito. I like that. I’m gonna try it out and hope for the best 😀

    • October 3, 2014 2:47 pm

      I was surprised too. Much of this comes down to personal taste, but who knows? I’d love to hear if you prefer it this way or the other.

  8. amber permalink
    February 18, 2015 4:33 pm

    you are a god sir. here is your *handshake*

  9. Nicholas Zieve permalink
    March 20, 2015 11:22 pm

    I didn’t have the fresh limes or mineral water when I came across this, but I found increasing the simple syrup to 1.25 oz (maybe just 1.5 oz in the end) and topping off with half tap-water, half club soda worked decently well.

  10. Regis permalink
    May 18, 2015 4:19 pm

    i have spent years to love and optimize my mojitos.
    I really enjoyed reading your article and you giving me the desire to try different rhums again as I never succeeded with something else than the Bacardi.
    Anyway, just wanted to suggest you with 2 drops of Angostura bitter and sugar in the raw ( no syrup). Tell me what you think.
    Great article.

  11. GLou permalink
    May 27, 2015 4:03 am

    We’ve got friends coming to stay for a few days and since the mojito is my favorite drink, I wanted to make some while they are here. Searched for a recipe for the BEST MOJITO and of course found yours! Now I need to do some shopping… 😀 Thank you for doing all the research and then freely sharing your recipe! Cheers!

  12. Tom permalink
    May 28, 2015 12:27 pm

    What exactly is demerara or muscovado simple syrup? Do I make it or purchase it?

    • May 29, 2015 11:03 am

      Simple syrup is just an equal measure of sugar and water. We use it in bars because dry sugar isn’t workable in a busy bar environment.

      The type of sugar you use will determine the flavor of your syrup. So white sugar will be super clean sweetness. Demerara or muscovado sugar is less refined, therefore has more brown sugar/molasses flavors. This is different from brown sugar, which is super refined white sugar with molasses added back into it.

      It order to make demerara or muscovado simple syrup, just take equal parts sugar and water and stir them until the sugar dissolves. Keep it in the fridge, and throw it out once it gets milky or starts smelling like nail polish.

  13. June 2, 2015 8:38 am

    I rarely leave comments, but this was truly an exceptional mojito review – thank you. Hosting a few friends tomorrow so will try your method tonight before sharing. Love the fact that the drink is clear (without mint leaves floating around) because they can be a nuisance sometimes. Wondering if the type of shaker I use can impact the taste? I ask because I don’t have a typical bar shaker (shaker + glass cup), I have the average retail shaker for amateurs.

    #BestMojitoReview

    • June 4, 2015 9:55 am

      I got to this a little late, my apologies. Thanks so much for your nice words. In answer to your question — a retail shaker will be fine. Just make sure to (1) fill it with ice and (2) shake decently hard for (3) 8-10 seconds. Should be great.

  14. June 6, 2015 9:21 am

    My now “not pregnant” daughter-in-law is querying her friends for her Summer 2015 drink. “Must be refreshing on hot days” she said. I suggested a Mojito because I have fresh mint growing in the garden, threatening to take over the yard. I am a rum fan & have had Mojitos that were nothing to write home about. I enjoyed your article & commend you on your devoted research. I will go out today to buy the supplies you recommend, & trust that I will share the best Mojito of my life with my daughter-in-law. Cheers & thanks! 😉

  15. whit lyles permalink
    June 6, 2015 7:03 pm

    I’ve been searching for a good mojito recipe and this is by far the best I have ever made, here’s your fucking mojito. Thank you

    • June 9, 2015 3:58 pm

      I will take that fucking mojito. My pleasure, whit lyles. Thank you back.

  16. Anonymous permalink
    June 27, 2015 10:02 am

    ok, so when is the mineral water added, and does it matter what kind of mint leaves? spearmint, peppermint, etc? thanks 🙂

    • June 27, 2015 6:13 pm

      Any time you’re adding bubbles to a cocktail, you’re doing it at the end of the process, post shake. I like adding it to the tin, then straining into a glass — that way it makes sure it’s mixed, although it takes a little practice to figure out how much to use. Otherwise you can add it to the glass post-straining, which makes it easy to use the right amount, but also makes sure you’re stabbing down at the ice with your straw, which I dislike because it looks stupid.

      As for mint variety — there’s a distinctly Cuban type called “yerba buena” that’s traditional, very hard to find in America, and which tastes like a milder spearmint. Personally, I like regular old spearmint. I think peppermint is a little weird, but there’s plenty of people who prefer it. It’s all to taste. Start with spearmint, and go from there.

    • Anonymous permalink
      April 19, 2016 4:27 pm

      NOT peppermint!

  17. Anonymous permalink
    June 27, 2015 10:09 am

    what are your thoughts on using agave syrup vice simple syrup? we used it so wouldn’t have to mess with heating/cooling. thanks 🙂

    • June 27, 2015 6:19 pm

      A couple things:

      (1) Simple syrup doesn’t need to be heated to dissolve. Take sugar and water in a closed jar and shake it up, or really just stir for a minute, and you’ll have simple. I try to keep some in the fridge at all times, but I have made it a la minute several times for a single drink. It’s really easy.

      (2) Agave would taste good. Normal white sugar syrup tastes good. As would strawberry syrup, basil syrup, ginger syrup… they’d all taste good. Monin makes a syrup called “mojito flavored syrup” that’s lime and mint flavored, and mojitos made with it taste good. There are a million ways to make a mojito, and almost all of them yield a tasty drink. This little project was to obsess over every detail to make what I thought is the best, but really, they were almost all good.

      (3) Sure, go ahead and use agave.

      Hope that’s helpful.

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 24, 2015 5:18 pm

        I used Bacardi, didn’t have mineral water so I used well water, didn’t have Demerara so I used organic sugar, used chocolate mint and using your method made the best Mojito I could ever wish for. I can’t wait to get home from work to make another one! Thanks a million!

  18. August 17, 2015 11:04 am

    Reblogged this on Love in the Time of Crisis.

  19. Alastair Mathews permalink
    October 26, 2015 7:22 pm

    I could see myself spending a lot of time in front of a bar that you are behind. Champion effort

  20. Jen permalink
    February 25, 2016 7:55 pm

    This is amazing. Just tried it and it’s on par with my favorite mojitos that are way too far away from me (a 5 hour drive). Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  21. March 10, 2016 9:20 am

    Hi,

    Thanks for the best Mojito post on the Web! I really appreciate it. Am tracking down the ingredients now.

    You seem to have a great sense of style here and I really like that glass in the last photo. For me, a Caribbean drink shouldn’t come in a square glass. Can you share which glassware you used for the photo? Looks great at that wash level and everything.

    I’m gonna make some copper straws for this drink and that glass and if it looks great I’ll send you a set, if you want them. I’ll start with the straw continuing the arc of the glass.

    Thanks,
    Pat

    • March 12, 2016 11:02 am

      Hey, thanks so much! I wish I could tell you what the glass is called, it’s something that I own from God knows when and it’s the only one I’ve got. I appreciate the offer of copper straws, but I can’t accept. Keep up the good work though!

  22. Ben permalink
    March 30, 2016 3:59 am

    Terrible news: can’t get hold of Q Soda, Fever Tree soda water or even perrier in a can. Of course San Pellegrino is everywhere. I am over in the UK, we have the likes of Buxton and Highland Spring. Really keen to follow your advice to a T, do you think these will cut it?!

    • April 12, 2016 2:22 pm

      Hello! I’ve just gotten back after a while abroad, and I apologize for the late reply:

      Except for things like San Pelligrino, Voss, and Perrier, bottled sparkling water is largely a local phenomenon, so I understand your difficulty. And I wouldn’t recommend any of the three terribly highly for this use, though Perrier is probably the best.

      This will get its own post shortly, but suffice to say, the ideal sparkling water for cocktails has good carbonation and a decently high sodium content (in terms of mg/L of sodium, the low end is around 30-80, and high is 225-275). And if you have to compromise on one of those two, select high carbonation, it’s much more important.

  23. Anonymous permalink
    April 10, 2016 12:57 pm

    Thank you for this amazing recipe and well written article ! Hilarious and entertaining which makes learning how to make drinks really fun

  24. Dan permalink
    May 18, 2016 7:13 am

    Hi Jason – great article and photos! Why don’t you ammend the recipe and clarify when to add the soda water? Just a suggestion. Lookin forward to mixing a few of these this weekend!

    Cheers!

  25. July 2, 2016 8:05 am

    Your picture has Flor de Cana Gold 4 yr. Flor de Cana Silver has a blue label with silver writing.

  26. Mike permalink
    September 24, 2016 1:00 pm

    Had an awesome mojito at the Parker on Palm Springs and caught a hankering. Having neve made a suitable mojito before… Well this guide was quite the treat.

    I made God honest one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had (well, not just one) by following this advice. Thank you so much for doing the work and laying it out so cleanly.

    I used Selvarey silver 5 year run and it was excellent. Anyways, thanks again – time to make another!

  27. November 19, 2016 8:45 pm

    No mojito should have minders water. What ever.

  28. Garry Lelliott permalink
    December 5, 2016 2:27 pm

    I’ve been looking for a Mojito recipe that didn’t look like it came straight out of a cookery/lifestyle magazine, and I think I have now found it!
    Will be giving this one a thorough road-test over Christmas!!

    • December 31, 2016 11:36 am

      Thanks Garry! I hope you like it!

      • Garry Lelliott permalink
        January 13, 2017 3:44 pm

        His Jason

        Just thought I would let you know the mojitos wend down a storm. Everyone who had one loved it. Shaking a mojitos might horrify the purist, but it was a great party piece!

  29. Gareth Davies permalink
    December 29, 2016 1:26 pm

    I love mojitos. My favourite drink by far and I hadn’t been able to make a great one until finding this recipe/method. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

  30. February 18, 2017 6:01 pm

    for mint leaves in mojito, spearmint good. Peppermint, not so much.

  31. Jason Philipp permalink
    April 2, 2017 10:02 am

    I finished the read with tears in my eyes.

    Well done Sir.

    Now it’s off to the store.

Trackbacks

  1. Make The World's Best Mojito With A Single Mint Leaf Muddled - Boozist
  2. Homemade cocktails για το καλοκαίρι! - Frapress

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