Friday, July 9, 2010

Classic Cuban Mojitos

If you’ve been in New York for the past week or so, you know about the crazy heat wave we’ve been having. And at street level in Manhattan, the temperatures seem to be multiplied threefold. The subway is a sticky mess, going out to lunch is almost unheard of, and there are mounds of wilted tourists everywhere. On any other normal summer weekend, I would typically spend time investigating refreshing dishes to serve or drinks to concoct. You can imagine my frenzy once the mercury decided to come to a screeching halt at 104°F.

In a desperate attempt to take advantage of the heat-exhausted mint from our garden, I decided it was time to resurrect my favorite classic summer cocktail: the Mojito. No frills here; just refreshing flavor. I use a wooden lemon reamer for the limes as I like the lime juice to be a little pulpy. The other end doubles as a muddler when you’re ready to crush the sugar into the mint.

Cuban Mojitos (By the Pitcher)

1 large bunch fresh mint (look for leaves that are bright green, free of scars, and firm — not wilted like those that are living through the Great Heat Wave)

1 cup organic granulated sugar (such as Florida Crystals)

10 limes, rolled and juiced, plus 1 for slicing

2 cups white rum, chilled, plus extra for adjustments

2 cups club soda, chilled, plus extra for adjustments

Ice cubes

Wash and pick through mint, setting aside three or four particularly handsome sprigs for later. Roughly remove and set aside the leaves from the remaining homely (although still spectacular) bunch; discard stems.

In a large, sturdy bowl (or mortar), add loose leaves, sugar, and lime juice. Using the back end of the reamer (or pestle), begin to muddle the mixture. The texture of the granulated sugar will allow the oils from the mint to seep out. Once the sugar is, for the most part, dissolved into the lime juice, add the rum and the club soda and mix well. Do a taste test here — the sweetness of the sugar or sharpness of the rum should not overwhelm the overall flavor of the drink. If so, adjust with club soda or extra lime juice until it meets your taste.

This batch can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours before serving. Add the ice cubes, sliced limes, and sprigs of handsome mint to the pitcher just before serving. If you prefer, you can filter out the original broken pieces of mint leaves before adding said final ingredients.


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