Miami Herald

A mojito (pronounced mo-HEE-toe), one of Cuba’s oldest cocktails, comes from the African word mojo, which means to place a little spell.

Bacardi traces the drink’s roots to 1586, when Francis Drake and his pirates tried to sack Havana for its gold. While the invasion was unsuccessful, Drake’s associate, Richard Drake, was said to have invented a mojitolike cocktail known as El Draque made with aguardiente (a crude forerunner of rum), sugar, lime and mint. Early on, it was consumed for medicinal purposes. Around the mid-1800s, the recipe was altered and gained in popularity as the original Bacardi Company was established. In 1940, Cuban playwright and poet Federico Villoch proclaimed: ``When aquardiente was replaced with rum, the Draque was to be called a Mojito.’‘

Other accounts suggest that slaves working in Cuban sugar cane fields in the late 19th century invented the mojito.

Ernest Hemingway fancied them at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana as well as in Key West (his favorite drink was the daiquiri, though). James Bond (aka Pierce Brosnan) drank one in Die Another Day, which was set in Cuba. Next month: an appearance in the Miami Vice movie.

THE RECIPE

• 12 fresh spearmint leaves

• 2 tablespoons simple syrup (see note)

• 1 � ounces light rum

• � lime, sliced

• Splash of club soda

• Lime wedge and mint sprigs for garnish

In a highball glass, gently crush the mint leaves and the sliced lime with a muddler or the back of a spoon. Add syrup, and fill glass with ice. Add rum and top with club soda. Stir to mix. Garnish with lime wedge and a few sprigs of mint. Makes 1 servings.

Note: Make simple syrup by heating 1 part sugar with 1 part water until dissolved; cool before using. You may substitute 4 teaspoons superfine sugar.

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