Friday, July 24, 2009

My Perfect Mojito

Making a fresh mojito is so easy! Here's how.

Mary's Perfect Mojito

I have loved mojitos since the first time I ever tasted one, and while Cuba may have been the birthplace of the mojito, they always make me think of Miami and the Florida Keys.

What a beautiful drive that is between the two, and that 7-mile bridge to Key West, a place so laid back that even the dogs saunter around so slowly they appear to be sleepwalking and the few traffic lights seem almost lazy. Where people get around on bicycles and scooters and nobody is in any kind of a hurry.

Traveling that long road, you are completely surrounded by hues and shades of blue and green that it seems no human eye could possibly have ever really seen before elsewhere, and water so clear it's as if you can see all the way through to the other side of the world. It's breathtaking and captivating and it will bring tears to your eyes because it is truly one of the most beautiful places in this country. Our own little tropical paradise.

And what fun. Days spent snorkeling off of a reef and making friends with barracuda and nurse sharks, odd looking, fluorescent fish so close you can touch them. Starting your evening with a champagne sunset sail on a schooner, then dinner of conch fritters or chowder, escargots in a buttery, garlic sauce with mushrooms, stone crab claws dipped in drawn butter, Key West shrimp or fresh catch of the day. Ending the night over live music and cocktails at Sloppy Joe's. Oh take me back now!!

If I close my eyes, I can transport right back to the Pier House Resort, in a chaise lounge by the pool bar, engulfed by a jungle of tall palms and tropical plants, sipping on a mojito, and listening to a band playing songs of the islands, the night sky so clear that you could see every star forever. Ahhh... yes.

Fresh mint is crucial for the perfect mojito, as is fresh lime juice. I have a potted mint plant that I have been nurturing for so many years that I've forgotten how many now, and I started a new one this winter in my Aerogarden, transferring it to another larger pot. You almost cannot kill mint, so as I suspected, despite beginning it's life as a hydroponic plant, it thrived in soil after the transfer too - which brings me to this.

Do not, under any circumstances, plant mint in your garden. Not anywhere. You may love it at first but in short time it will begin to take over the landscape like a noxious weed, choking out any other plants you have in the same garden and you will not be able to get rid of it. Keep it contained in a pot. Unless, of course, you actually want it as a ground cover.

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Recipe: Mary's Perfect Fresh Mojito

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min | Yield: About 2 quarts

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup packed mint leaves
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 8 to 9)
  • 1-1/2 cups quality rum
  • About 2 cups ice cubes
  • 1 to 2 cups club soda, to top off pitcher
  • Lime curls and extra mint leaves, for garnish, optional

Boil sugar and water just until sugar is dissolved and mixture is clear; set aside to cool. Muddle the mint leaves with a muddler or wooden spoon in the bottom of a 2 quart pitcher. Top with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Muddle again, just enough to release the oils of the mint but do not pulverize them. Add rum and ice, topping off with club soda; stir well.

Cook's Notes: In the summer, I use simple syrup to sweeten a lot of beverages, such as homemade lemonade, sweet tea, snowball syrup, sangria, hurricanes and my iced tea cocktail, and even my fruit salad, so I like to prepare a larger batch and keep it in the refrigerator. You may use a lemon lime soda like 7-up or Sprite instead of club soda, but understand that will increase the overall level of sweetness. May also substitute Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice, if you don't happen to have fresh limes, but that will also affect the sweetness level and you will likely want to adjust the amount of simple syrup in both cases.

By the Glass: In a tall highball or collins glass, add the mint leaves. Top with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Muddle a few times, just enough to release the oils of the mint but not to pulverize them. Add 2 ounces of rum on top and fill glass with ice. Top it off with club soda or lemon lime soda and stir well. May also muddle in a shaker and then strain into a glass.

Variation: Muddle a quartered tangerine (satsuma) with the mint leaves.

Cucumber Mint Mojito: For each glass, puree 1/4 of a medium, peeled cucumber with the lime juice. Muddle with the mint leaves and proceed as above.

Grapefruit Mojito: Zest strips of grapefruit for garnish. Peel 1/2 of grapefruit and segment for glasses, cutting away all pith; juice remaining half and add to mojito mixture. Add segment of grapefruit per glass and garnish with zest strips.


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Posted by on July 24, 2009
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