March 22, 2016

The history of the mojito is magical, quite literally, and it has been refined and altered to taste like the beverage that we all know and love.

Except, not all mixologists love this hundreds-of-years-old cocktail, and Ian Fišermanis is one of them.

The truth about mixology is fascinating. You may think it’s glorious and all cocktail making, but in reality, there is much more it to – from cutting yourself on broken glass to organising staff, it’s a career that not everyone is cut out for.

What The Mojito Means To Me

Why The Mojito Is Pushing The Pain Barrier For Bartenders

I hate the Mojito. There I said it.

I hate making them, I hate the concept of them, I hate the style of them and I hate the flavour.

Looking and tasting like the water from your sink after you’ve freshened up in the morning, they remain a dishwater-like concept which is lost to me, and I am not the only bartender that feels this way.

They are labour intensive, require seemingly endless ingredients and time, and are responsible for clogging up many a bartenders sink. What’s worse is they seem to appeal to people with very little interest in cocktails.

It’s an experience familiar to any mixologist. Customers enter the bar, three will look at the menu with great interest whilst the fourth won’t even pick it up, they will just say ‘Mojito please’. In my opinion, it’s an easy option for those who aren’t really excited by spirits.

It is the ultimate ‘panic order’.

Perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about. Perhaps you don’t care about Mojitos. Perhaps you don’t think you have an opinion or care about the drink at all…oh but you do.

For example: What glass does it go in? Rocks? Collins? Pint? How much mint? How much lime? Can you use lime juice? Or must it be whole slices? What kind of sweetener is appropriate? Should you use granulated sugar or simple syrup? What kind of sugar? White? Brown? Splenda?

Can you use a mint syrup and exclude the mint leaves all together? Is it muddled? Or can you just shake it all together and let the ice bruise the lime and mint? Then what kind of rum? Light? Dark? Gold? Spiced?

Then do you top it with club soda or is lemon lime soda acceptable? Garnish? Chances are you went through that litany of questions, picked your methodology and thought “duh!” Any other option elicited with a “What idiot would do that?!” – see what I mean?

The Mojito’s Popularity

Why The Mojito Is Pushing The Pain Barrier For Bartenders

The Mojito remains the most popular cocktail in most pubs and bars. It probably comes as no surprise that ‘Mojito cocktail’ is by far the most searched cocktail term on Google; Poland googling the term more than any other country.

It is a one-spirit based cocktail which naturally appeals to those making them at home. The sad truth is, it takes a lot of work to make them and more importantly, make them well.

The history of the Mojito dates back to the 16th century and a drink called ‘El Draque’, although the exact origin of this classic cocktail is the subject of debate.

One story suggests the Mojito was a derivative of ‘El Draque’, named after Sir Francis Drake. In 1586, after his successful raid at Cartagena de Indias, Drake’s ships sailed towards Havana but there was an epidemic of dysentery and scurvy on board.

It was known that the local South American Indians had remedies for various tropical illnesses; so a small boarding party went ashore to Cuba and came back with ingredients for a medicine which was effective.

The ingredients were Aguardiente de caña (a crude form of rum which translates as fire water from sugar cane) added with local tropical ingredients: lime, sugarcane juice and mint.

Drinking lime juice in itself would have been a great help in staving off scurvy and dysentery.

Tafia/Rum was used as soon as it became widely available to the British (ca. 1650). Mint, lime and sugar were also helpful in hiding the harsh taste of this spirit. While this drink was not called a Mojito at this time, it was still the original combination of these ingredients.

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.

Guarapo, the sugar cane juice often used in Mojitos, was a popular drink amongst the slaves who helped coin the name of the sweet nectar. However, this drink was never originally mixed with lime juice.

There are several theories behind the origin of the name Mojito; one such theory holds that the name relates to mojo – a Cuban seasoning made from lime and used to flavour dishes. Another theory is that the name Mojito is simply a derivative of mojadito (Spanish for ‘a little wet’) or simply the diminutive of mojado (‘wet’).

Due to the vast influence of immigration from the Canary Islands, the term possibly came from the mojo creole marinades adapted in Cuba using citrus vs traditional Isleno types.

The History Of The Mojito

Why The Mojito Is Pushing The Pain Barrier For Bartenders

Built from five ingredients, the Mojito was most famously enjoyed by Ernest Hemingway who is believed to have catapulted the cocktail to fame along with the Daiquiri. After spending many years splitting time between Key West, Florida and Spain, he moved to Havana in 1939.

An enthusiastic imbiber, Hemingway famously declared, ‘Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquirí en El Floridita’ (my mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita) which, according to legend, he penned on the wall of the La Bodeguita del Medio – a thriving bar in Old Havana.

Of course, their most popular drink (like almost all bars in Havana), is still the Mojito. In 2002’s James Bond film, Die Another Day, Bond uses the Mojito to seduce Bond girl Jinx, in a change from his usual Martini. The Mojito once again jumped to the publics attention.

What’s interesting, and lends some support to my personal dislike of the cocktail, is that the concoction started as a means to hide the flavour of the spirits. Mint, Sugar, lime are all powerful flavours and when used in the volume of a Mojito truly destroy the rums characteristics. Using a quality rum in a Mojito is a waste of good rum.

As a drink considered to be one of the oldest mixed drinks in history (at possibly 500 years old in its original form) it is a testament to its following that it has jumped from cocktail bar to high street store.

In the modern world where cocktails have crossed over into mainstream product ranges, the Mojito has lead the way. Betty Crockers Mojito cheesecake and the Body Shops Mojito skincare ranges are just two of the cocktails distant relatives. I’ve even seen a paint colour called Mojito.

As the cocktail fights for first place in the public eye whilst also being pushed to the back by bartenders everywhere, how will the story end?

It’s true the Mojito is here to stay, whether we mixologists like it or loath it. I suggest it will enjoy the coming years in the shade until it is revised and revisited by some bright spark in the future.

I however, for one, am happy to put this troublesome cocktail to the back of the bar. Next time you consider ordering a Mojito, take a moment to ask the bartender for something new. You never know, you might like it.