How to make a mojito

A Mojito from The Cuban Place.
A Mojito from The Cuban Place. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

The mojito may be a popular perennial on the Australian bar scene but its seafaring roots are far from glamorous.

The cocktail has been traced back to a 16th-century drink called "El Draque", named after the English sea captain Sir Francis Drake.

Drake was approaching Havana when he sent a party from his ship to find a local remedy for scurvy. They returned with rum, limes, sugarcane juice and mint: the ingredients needed for a mojito.

Mixmaster: Bartender Silvia Ali Idris finishes off a mojito at The Cuban Place.
Mixmaster: Bartender Silvia Ali Idris finishes off a mojito at The Cuban Place. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

More than 400 years later, the mojito is more likely to be used to remedy the effects of a long summer day than vitamin C deficiency. 

Silvia Ali Idris and the team behind the bar at The Cuban Place on York Street in Sydney specialise in making mojitos. Idris says it is not uncommon for the bar to serve more than 2000 of them on a hot Friday night.

With its refreshing, zesty taste, the mojito is the perfect cocktail to master for entertaining over these last few weeks of summer. We asked Idris to give us the secret to making the perfect mojito at home.

A Mojito from The Cuban Place.
A Mojito from The Cuban Place. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Brown sugar or caster sugar?

Traditionally, brown sugar is used, although Idris says caster sugar is more common in Australia.

"When I worked in the UK, I used sugar cane, or brown sugar, and I know a lot of Cuban people and people from Latin America who use it too," she says.

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"I think the Australian palate is a bit different. We tried to do it [at The Cuban Place] and people didn't like it as much."

Picking your mint

It doesn't matter if you use spearmint or peppermint (peppermint is a bit sweeter), Idris says, as long as you use the freshest mint you can find.

Crushed ice or cubes?

Idris says this is really a matter of what you have on hand.

At The Cuban Place staff use a crushed ice machine but you can also crush ice at home using a blender or by hand (place the ice in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to bash it).

If this is too hard, just use ice cubes. But be warned: they will be a bit trickier to navigate when using the bar spoon to pull your mint and juice up to finish the drink.

Spicy (and fruity) variations

There are plenty of fruity variations on the mojito but Idris's favourite twist on the cocktail is best suited for the colder months: the spiced mojito.

To make a spiced mojito, begin the drink as normal but substitute rum for spiced rum, and top up the glass with ginger beer instead of soda water.

"People say, 'Oh, spiced rum, I don't like it', but mixed with the lime and the ginger beer it goes down very well."

If you would rather whip up a fruity variation of the cocktail while the days are still warm and long, Idris recommends adding passionfruit pulp before you muddle and topping up with ginger ale, or swapping the passionfruit for strawberries and topping up with cranberry juice.

Mojito recipe

Makes one

1 bar spoon caster sugar

30ml fresh lime juice

60ml Havana Club Añejo 3 Años rum

A few sprigs of mint

Ice cubes

Soda water

Collins glass

Muddler

Straw

Method

1. Put one flat bar spoon of caster sugar, two sprigs of mint, and one shot (30ml) of lime juice into a Collins glass.

2. Gently muddle the mixture, taking care not to break the mint leaves.

3. Crush the ice cubes by running them through a blender, or by placing in a plastic bag and breaking with a rolling pin. If this isn't possible, just use whole ice cubes.

4. Fill glass with ice.

5. Add a double shot (60ml) of Havana Club Añejo 3 Años, followed by a dash of soda water.

6. Place a napkin over the rim of the glass (to stop your hands from touching it). Then, with one hand holding the top of the glass and another using the bar spoon, make round movements with the bar spoon at the bottom of the glass to lift the caster sugar, mint and juice up to the top.

7. Top up your glass with ice, a straw, and another sprig of mint to garnish.

The Cuban Place, 125 York Street, Sydney, (02) 9264 4224, thecubanplace.com.au