The one thing we can say for sure is that the mojito comes from Cuba. What we can’t say for sure, is how it came to be. The most popular legend revolves around an old Cuban drink named “El Draque,” after the English sea captain Sir Francis Drake. The story goes that there was an epidemic of scurvy and dysentery in Drake’s fleet after returning from their successful raid at Cartegena in present day Colombia. A small party led by Drake’s cousin Richard snuck into Cuba to gather the ingredients for a native cure he knew of. The concoction was made from aguardiente (basically unaged rum), yerba buena (spearmint), limes, and sugarcane juice. Not only did the medicine work, it tasted good!
Sometime in the 17th century, the aguardiente was replaced with rum and the modern mojito was born. The name likely comes from the citrus based mojo sauce popular in Cuba. Another popular origin story comes from the African word mojo, which means spell, thus making a mojito, a little spell.
- Better ingredients always make better drinks. Use fresh mint. Better yet, use yerba Buena if you can find it. Use a name-brand rum like Bacardi or Havana Club. Your mojito is only going to be as good as what you put in it.
- Some people say to merely bruise the mint in a mojito when making it, and to shake it lightly. Others say to thoroughly muddle it and to shake vigorously. This is a personal choice. Being nicer to your mint will give you a more subtle flavor, where as being rough with it will give you more mint flavor but also a bit of the bitter chlorophyll flavor. Consider what you like in your mojito then treat your mint accordingly.
- The majority of mojitos are made with light rum, but they don’t have to be. Purists will tell us never to use spiced rum, but sometimes we need a bit more flavor than a light rum provides. Don’t be afraid to embellish the mojito. Add fruit flavors or go even crazier by switching out the rum for another liquor like gin or vodka.
Toro Toro doesn’t have the most extensive mojito menu in D.C. They have one. But, it’s the best mojito I’ve had downtown. It hits all the right mojito notes: sweet, mint, rum. And, if you come for happy hour, you can pick one up for only $5. And definitely try the truffle fries.
Cuba Libre has one of the best mojito menus in Washington. It doesn’t hurt having one of the largest rum menus in the District. Now that the weather is warming up, try their Pyrat XO mojito or one of their flavored mojitos made with watermelon, passion fruit, or coconut.
New York City
Agozar is a Cuban restaurant in the East Village. In addition to their sandwiches and tapas, they’ve got a mojito menu with a wide array of choices. Pick from their traditional mojito, or sweeten it up with sangria or strawberry. They have seven mojitos in all.
Tarpon Bend makes this list for two reasons. First, their mojitos are only $3.50 all day on Thursdays. Second, they use premium liquor in their well. Even if your drinks are inexpensive, you still know that they’re made with quality ingredients.
Although they don’t have a website, La Bodeguita del Medio may be the most famous mojito bar in the world. Regulars at La Bodeguita have included Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Nat King Cole. Ernest Hemingway has often been said to be a regular here, but the founder discounts this as do Hemingway biographers. Today, La Bodeguita is a chain that can be found around the world
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