Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mojito - The cocktail that casts a spell

mo·ji·to/mōˈhētō/ or little spell.  
In the 1930's, during the prohibition era in the US, Cuba was enjoying a very cool and refreshing cocktail called Mojito.  The pleasure of this relaxing drink consists of rum, sugar, preferably raw, "hierbabuena" or mint, lime and soda water. 

It is believed it was invented in a restaurant bar called La Bodeguita del Medio, right in the heart of  the colonial port city, La Habana.  At the time, Cuba was one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. 

The name Mojito comes from the African word mojo, which means to place a little spell on all those who drink it.  Some historians contend that African slaves who worked in the Cuban sugar cane fields during the 19th century were instrumental in the cocktail's origin.  The slaves concocted a popular drink made from distilled sugar cane juice called 'guarapo'.  The sweet nectar was drank alone or used in cooking sweets and eventually used in Mojitos.
Another theory referring to the origin of the name relates to mojo, a Cuban marinade made from lime or orange juice, spices and herbs, and used to flavor dishes.
In spanish Mojito is simply a derivative of 'mojadito', which means "a little wet", or simply the dimunitve of "mojado" (wet).
But every great cocktail must have a legendary story to spice up it's origin.  Sir Francis Drake, appears in the weaving of this story.  In 1586, in an effort to control the riches from the America's, Queen Elizabeth I of England, sponsored and encouraged pirates to plunder Spanish cities in the New World.  One such character was Francis Drake, whose job was to sack Cuba where the Spanish crown kept hidden Aztec gold, previously taken out of Mexico.  When King Philip II of Spain, got word of this news, he warned his governor in Cuba of Captain Drakes plan, and the city had time to prepare.  

Fourteen pirate sails appeared off the coast of Cuba and waited there for several days.  Captain Drake did not set foot on the port, he sailed away from the island giving up after firing only a few shots.  

Captain Drake did not plunder La Havana, but his subordinate, Richard Drake, left a legacy of a drink called the Drake or "El Drako" (meaning the dragon).  The invention of the recipe consisted of "aguardiente", the crude predecessor of rum, sugar, lime and mint.  It was mostly consumed for medicinal purposes during one of the worst epidemics of cholera (spread by trade routes by the Europeans) to attack the population of La Havana.  

In the mid 1800's, refining the production of rum, Don Facundo Bacardi established the original Bacardi Company.  The original recipe for the Drake was altered, replacing the 'aguardiente' for rum, then becoming a Mojito.  

La Bodeguita De Cuba
La Havana, Cuba
The cocktail reached it's glamourous popularity when people from the US, whom were escaping a prohibition of alcohol, travelled to Cuba for their vacations.  Since the late 1930's, American mobsters had been involved in Cuban gaming.  It was the gathering point for America's top gangsters, as well as celebrities.  

Ernest Hemingway
"My Mojito in La Bodeguita"
Of notable repute, one such celebrity whom enjoyed the Mojito everyday, was Nobel Prize laureate American writer Ernest Hemingway.  He made a permanent home for himself in La Havana and  frequented every afternoon the bar La Bodeguita del Medio.  It is here where he wrote and published in 1952 his last novel The Old Man and the Sea, set in Santiago, Cuba.  

The Mojito, made its way to Key West, and much of the credit for introducing it into the US goes to Ernest Hemingway.  Due to the geographic proximity of only 90 miles, the transportation of beer and rum from Cuba to Key West during the Prohibition, made the drink ever more popular.  

Then came Miami and the South Beach scene, where it became the drink of choice.  Being a major holiday destination, tourists spread the joy of the cocktail to New York where it became trendy in the Soho clubs and from there spreading all over the world.

To enjoy a Mojito: 
  • Light Rum
  • Lime
  • Sugar
  • Mint
  • Soda Water

Quantities for one drink:

  • 2-3 oz Light Rum
  • Juice of 1 Lime (1 oz)
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 2-4 Mint Sprigs
  • Soda Water

Blending Instructions:

  • Lightly muddle the mint and sugar with a splash of soda water in a mixing glass until the sugar dissolve and you smell the mint
  • Squeeze the lime into the glass, add rum and shake with ice
  • Strain over cracked ice in a highball glass
  • Top with soda water, garnish with mint sprig and serve


  1. One of my favorites! But now I can appreciate the mojito even more with all the knowledge oh it's past. I like your style of writing.

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  2. Yo soy de Cuba, y me alegra leer articulos como este que hablan de la cultura Cubana. Ciertamente, en Cuba se dice que el mojito es la bebida nacional.


    Y salud por el Mojito!!

    1. Asi es, el mojito es la bebida nacional de Cuba y a mucho orgullo. Me alegro que le ha gustado la nota. Gracias por compartir.

  3. I love the mojitos from La Bodeguita del Medio in Palo Alto, California. It is a spinoff from the one in Cuba. Good article Leticia.


  4. Great job, Leticia! I very much love the magical, minty mojito. We must enjoy one together the next time I see you!

  5. We will for sure enjoy a fabulous mojito. I am looking forward to that and great filmmaking!

  6. After reading your well written post on mojito, it made my taste buds exited to drink one right away.

    1. Great! I hope you prepared one with fresh and fragrant fresh mint.

  7. I've always enjoyed a well made Mojito - such a fine warm weather beverage. I recently tried one made with Sake, and it was also quite tasty.

    1. It had not thought of a mojito made with sake. I'm sure it gives it another dimension. That's a creative idea! Thanks for your comment.

  8. Mike (now living and working in Denmark) here.......Had the pleasure of trying a Mojito for first time this summer (English guy from Manchester....we don't do cocktails! :) )....from the beach bars of Malaga while visiting and working with my Spanish colleagues. Fabulous!! Now making my own with fresh mint from garden here in Denmark.... Just need the sun to make them perfect!! :)

    1. Hello Mike, thanks for reading. Your comment is funny (English guys don't do cocktails!). I'm glad you gave the mojito a chance. You will be hooked from now on. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

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