The History of the Mojito

The Mojito has got to be one of the most easily recognisable cocktails. Most people of cocktail-drinking age can identify that it contains rum and lime. But the drink has a very interesting past that links back to the 1500s when it was considered to be a drink for the Cuban working class.
There are two stories about the origins of the classic drink. Francis Drake was happy to claim the cocktail as his own creation. When the explorer had conquered the Spanish city of Cartagena de Indias, he headed towards Cuba. However, many of his men began to fall ill with dysentery and scurvy. They believed that they would find medicines in Havana. Sir Francis Drake came back from the town with Aguardient de Cana (a crude form of rum), lime, sugarcane juice, and mint. When the ingredients were mixed together, the Mojito was born, although it was originally called the El Draque. It is unlikely that the mixture was very beneficial, although the lime juice may have helped to alleviate the symptoms a little.

The team took the drink back to Europe, and when rum became widely available, it was much more popular. Sparkling water, ice and mint leaves were added, and the drink was served in a tall glass.

The second story credits the African slaves who were working in the sugarcane fields. They had access to Guarapo, which was the name they used for the sugarcane juice. Their version did not contain lime juice.

There is even disagreement as to where the name comes from. Some believe that it originates from the word Mojo, which means “to place a little spell”. It is also a Cuban seasoning which is made with lime. Others think that it comes from the word mojadito, which is Spanish for “a little wet” or mojado, which simply means “wet”.

The drink really became popular worldwide when the Bacardi Company began in the mid-1800s. The company used the Mojito to show how versatile their rum was.
The drink has had quite a celebrity fan-base, with Ernest Hemmingway famously discovering it on a trip to Cuba. He used to drink in La Bodeguita del Medio, which is still trading today. On the wall is his famous saying “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.”

Other fans included Brigitte Bardot and Errol Flynn. It was also used by James Bond to seduce Jinx in the Die Another Day film.

There are many variations of the Mojito including the Malibu Mojito which includes coconut flavouring, the Dirty Mojito which uses spiced rum and brown sugar syrup, and the Mexican Mojito which substitutes the rum for tequila. The Mojito Royal replaces the soda with champagne and the Morelli Mojito uses Raspberry vodka instead of rum and replaces the soda with red bull. Some bars add angostura bitters to sharpen the taste, and the lime is sometimes replaced with lemon.

The beauty of the mojito is that it can be adjusted to suit everybody. Never give up on a mojito, just try a different variation.

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Bartender's top tip

Experiment with cocktails for the season. Try ice-cold, citrussy or sparkling cocktails in warmer seasons and spicy, warm or creamy cocktails for the colder months.

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