Havana, Cuba (date unknown)
Some cocktails can be easily pinned down to a specific point of origin. The Mojito isn’t one of them. The first printed recipe is in the 1931 bar manual from Sloppy Joe’s in Havana. But there are records of Caribbean pirates mixing unrefined rum, sugar, lime, and mint going back to the late 16th century. Who knows? One thing’s for sure: The Mojito’s trendiness a while back wasn’t because it was the new kid on the block.
Most places I’ve seen make this over-muddle the mint, demolishing it into little shreds you’re picking out of your teeth for the next hour. Adding lime chunks to the muddling mix will get a huge boost from the oils in their rinds. Take care and do your muddling in two passes – you’ll get a much nicer drink. And cleaner teeth.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Muddler, Barspoon
Ice: Ice cube, Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Spirits: Light rum (recommended: Havana Club 3, Caña Brava, Cruzan)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup, Seltzer or sparkling mineral water (recommended: Pellegrino)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime chunks, Fresh spearmint
In a chilled shaker, add:
Half a lime, cored and cut into four chunks
2 oz light rum
3/4 oz simple syrup
Muddle well to express all lime juice and rind oils, then add:
10 spearmint leaves
Muddle again lightly to release the mint’s aromatics. Add an ice cube and let it steep in a cool place for a few minutes.
Fill a Collins glass about two-thirds of the way up with cracked ice. Gently strain the infused rum over the cracked ice – don’t shake too much. Top with:
1 oz seltzer or sparkling mineral water
Stir lightly to blend and garnish with a mint sprig that’s been lightly slapped against the rim of the glass to release its aromatic oils.
Uncertain origin (1870s)
For most of the 19th century, anything called a “cocktail” was of the same template: a spirit with sugar, a bit of water (or ice), and bitters. As vermouth became available in the US around 1870, there was a surge of revolutionary cocktails pairing this exotic new item with spirits: gin, genever, bourbon, rye, Scotch, rum, brandy… people couldn’t get enough of the stuff. The original pairing of spirit with vermouth and bitters may have been the Turf Club – unfortunately, history is frustratingly hazy on this subject. Damned drinkers! The classic Martini and Manhattan came from this period, as did the Martinez. It’s most likely named for the San Francisco-adjacent East Bay town that was a hub of activity during the Gold Rush. The oldest printed recipe for the Martinez specifies a ratio of one part spirit to two parts vermouth – the variation I prefer marks a subsequent point in its evolution, at a one-to-one ratio. All these spirit-and-vermouth cocktails went through a long dry spell in the 20th century, some getting down to just a quarter-ounce of vermouth, others just rinse the ice with vermouth before stirring and drain out any excess. Why the fear of vermouth? Who knows. I’m just glad that bartenders are re-embracing denser ratios these days.
Old Tom gin was most likely used in the original recipe since the London Dry style hadn’t taken hold yet. Another possibility would be genever, called “Holland gin” back in the day – try this with Bols genever sometime if you really want to get a taste of the past. The Martinez is one of my favorite examples of “time travel in a glass” – imagine yourself in a candlelit saloon, heavy with dark wood and red velvet, as you sip this. You may just get the urge to head across the Bay and go panning for gold.
Hardware: Mixing glass, Jigger, Barspoon, Vegetable peeler
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: Old Tom gin (recommended: Hayman’s, Ransom)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Italian vermouth (recommended: Carpano Antica, Dolin red), Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Orange bitters (recommended: Regan’s), orange twist
Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.
In a mixing glass, add:
1 1/2 oz Old Tom gin
1 1/2 oz Italian vermouth
1/3 oz maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
Add a mix of ice cubes and cracked ice to cover well above the liquid level. Stir well to blend and chill, then strain into the prepared, chilled glass. Pinch an orange twist over the drink to express oils onto its surface, then rub the twist around the glass rim to coat. Garnish with the twist laid across the surface of the drink.
Colonial America (mid-17th century)
When the weather turns colder, there’s few things better than a good Hot Buttered Rum – so long as you make it with real ingredients, not the powdered mix. There’s two parts to this recipe: a batter you’ll make beforehand (then store in an airtight container in the freezer), and the simple drink mix itself.
Hot rum drinks like this were common in Colonial America, but I suspect it took Middle America to perfect it with a decadent sweet-and-spiced butter/ice cream batter. There are countless recipe variations on Hot Buttered Rum – this one comes from my mother-in-law, who used to make it in Seattle (and, by chance, this is very close to the version made at Seattle’s Zig Zag Café). Stick with a good-quality, flavorful, rum like Plantation OFTD (amazing and potent), Appleton or Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black – but Coruba will work, too (don’t be tempted to use a spiced rum, it’ll become a spice bomb). For the bold and adventurous, take it a level up by using Smith & Cross “Navy Strength” 114-proof Jamaican rum – all those toffee & butterscotch flavors in Smith & Cross’s beloved funky hogo really shine in this. Or dive deeper and experiment with a blend of rums – or even rum and brandy – to get your flavor just right.
Hardware: Jigger, Plastic measuring cup, Standing mixer (optional)
Glassware: Ceramic or glass mug
Spirits: Dark Jamaican rum (recommended: Plantation OFTD, Coruba, Hamilton, Smith & Cross)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Hot Buttered Rum Batter (recipe below), Boiling water
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Cinnamon stick or fresh nutmeg
HOT BUTTERED RUM BATTER
In a saucepan over medium-low heat (just warm enough to melt the ice cream and butter), add together:
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Stir until well-blended, then pour into an airtight container and freeze. Batter will keep a long time – I have some from a year ago that’s just fine.
Pre-warm a ceramic or glass mug with boiling water while you’re assembling the ingredients. Discard the water, then combine in the mug:
1 1/2 oz dark rum
2 tbl hot buttered rum batter (leave frozen, it’ll melt as you stir)
1/2 cup boiling water (use the plastic measuring cup)
Stir to blend. Garnish with a long cinnamon stick or a dusting of freshly-grated nutmeg.