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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Culture

Cuban cocktails: Daiquiris, Margaritas and Mojitos

Posted June 24, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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As we march into the dog days of summer (no offense to dogs), and the blush of excitement at warm-weather prospects has turned into a sunburn, now’s a good time to freshen up with a few summer sippers.

Ice, Ice Baby

Whether shaken, stirred or blended, ice seems to be a common theme among warm-weather drinks.

Daiquiris, pina coladas and nonalcoholic smoothies and slushies, and many iced coffee drinks all seem to benefit from a good round in the blender with a bunch of ice.

Margaritas, in my humble opinion the quintessential summer cocktail, can either be blended or on the rocks. Of course, ice cubes are a must in lemonade, iced tea, and many other nonalcoholic beverages. And the debate continues to rage over whether a martini should be shaken with ice or just stirred—despite what James Bond might say. My favorite argument about martinis, though, is whether to use gin or vodka. As a purist, I say gin.

In fact, I consider gin—and rum—to be the basis for many summer cocktails. The citrusy crispness of a gin and tonic on a hot summer day is just about the most refreshing thing around. Or, if you’re really sweltering, cool down with any rum-based drink, and pretend your patio/back yard/front porch/favorite hangout is a tropical beach. (This also works in the dead of winter. Crank up the heat, don a pair of shorts and whirl up a batch of pina coladas. Then, make believe that you are basking in warmer climes.)

Another rum-based drink, the Mojito, is all the rage right now. This blissful blend of rum, mint, sugar syrup, club soda and lime was born in Cuba several decades ago and quickly became popular among Havana hipsters. It’s now making a comeback in many trendy establishments across the United States. The Mojito is a long, tall drink that sparkles with bubbles and bits of mint. The mint presents a dual bonus and caveat: the Mojito is one of few drinks that leaves your breath fresh, but you have to watch out for some of the green stuff getting stuck in your teeth.

Mojitos, sort of the Cuban cousin to the American Mint Julep, are a bit more time-consuming to make than most cocktails. Trim the time by making a batch of simple syrup ahead of time. To make a simple syrup, heat equal parts of water and sugar (a cup of each, for example) until just before boiling, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. You can then store the syrup in the fridge for a couple of weeks so it’s handy for Mojito time!

Place several sprigs (4-8, to taste) of mint and a tablespoon of cooled simple syrup in a tall glass or tumbler. Muddle (or squish) the mint in the syrup for about 30 seconds. Cut a lime in half, remove seeds, squeeze both halves into the glass, dropping one half into the glass (this provides lime oil and adds necessary bitterness to the drink). Add 2 ounces of light rum. Stir. Add ice and top with club soda. You can garnish the whole concoction with a sprig of mint, if you like.

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