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[Photograph: Heather Arndt Anderson]

Mojitos are such a refreshing way to chase the sticky morning heat; but if you're like me, the last thing you want is a big mouthful of yard clippings every time you take a sip. And lot of mojitos are so cloying that they leave me even thirstier, rather than slaking a sticky throat the way a proper cocktail should. Clearly this wheel, while not needing reinvention, needed a little tuning.

I fiddled with each component of the mojito just slightly; I didn't want to deviate so far that the drink would be unrecognizable, yet I found the temptation to calibrate each ingredient just too irresistible.

In lieu of mint, I initially tried Fee Bros. Peppermint Bitters, but found its strong peppermint oil, Blue #1 and Yellow #5 to be far more reminiscent of mouthwash than of a spritzy cocktail. Most annoying, it contains no actually bitter ingredients (the other ingredients are propylene glycol, alcohol, water and glycerine); it's just peppermint-flavored green liquid. So I made my own variation by infusing strong alcohol (grain alcohol is fine) with macerated peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm for a few days, and then straining.

In order to add a little bitter complexity, I made a lime simple syrup infused with zest, pith, and the rinds of the lime. The syrup is sweet up front with a bitter finish. When combined with the peppermint extract, it's a wonderfully bitter, citrusy, minty combination that is precisely mojito.

The other two ingredients really don't need any tinkering: rum and soda. I used cacha├ža (which is made with fermented sugar cane juice instead of molasses) and clean-tasting Fever Tree club soda. I love the tiny bottles and have already repurposed one, with a cork, to hold my homemade peppermint extract.

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About the Author: Portland, Oregon native Heather Arndt Anderson is the author of the food blog Voodoo & Sauce. She was recently published in the Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, for which she penned the Pacific Northwest chapter.

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