In the pantheon of summer cocktails, the mojito ranks high – the first printed recipe dates from the 1930s, in a cocktail menu for Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havana, and Cubans know from hot, humid weather. Just like Texans, right? So naturally this rum beverage is a classic summer-day refresher – nicely balanced between tart and sweet; minty and fizzy and possessed of a devastating bite if you overindulge.
There’s not much improving to be done on a well-built mojito. But I’m not a big fan of mint, and lime is such a common cocktail ingredient, that I thought I’d tweak things by swapping in a more interesting citrus-and-herb combo. This isn’t a refined cocktail, something you strain into a coupe when you’re feeling fancy – mojitos are meant to be fun and casual and a little messy, so don’t sweat the technique. Start with the recipe below, taste, and add more of whatever you want.
10-12 fresh mint leaves
Half a lime, cut in wedges
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 ounces white rum
4 ounces seltzer or soda
Place mint leaves and a lime wedge at the bottom of a tall glass. Muddle to crush mint and lime. Add the rest of the lime and the sugar, and muddle again. Do not strain. Fill the glass 3/4 full of ice. Pour in the rum, then top off the glass with soda water. Stir, taste, and add more sugar to taste. Garnish with lime wedge.
1 ruby grapefruit, cut in half-moon slices
1 ounce fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
2 ounces white rum
Seltzer or soda water
Place three leaves of basil, one teaspoon of sugar, and a light squeeze of grapefruit juice from one of the slices in the bottom of a tall glass or Mason jar. Muddle lightly; don’t attack or grind up the basil leaves (the gritty sugar and small amount of liquid will help). Add the remaining sugar and the already-squeezed grapefruit slice plus one or two more, and muddle again.
Remember, the point is not to smash the fruit into submission, just to release the juice and the essential oils. Add the rum, stir, add enough ice that the glass is 3/4 full, and then top with seltzer and stir again. Taste and add more basil, sugar or grapefruit if you like. Sip with a straw to catch any undissolved sugar at the bottom of the glass.