Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | May 24, 2010

Bacardi’s True Originals Contest

Bacardi has been doing a  high-quality series of videos called True Originals. Each looks at a fictionalized cocktailian bartender making their unique take on classic rum drinks. The one above highlights the Mojito, while previous versions have featured the Daiquiri and the Pina Colada.

With the video series, they are now inviting people to submit new twists on the Mojito. This is a really interesting challenge. The Mojito is a cocktail that I consider part of the canon. It does what it does incredibly well – a sublime combination of rum, lime, sugar and mint. There isn’t an easy way to modify this recipe without fundamentally walking away from what it does so well. Adding flavors while maintaining the simplicity is a contradiction in terms.

To help me think about what I wanted to make to modify the Mojito, I looked at the recipes three of my favorite bartenders use for their version. Phil Ward’s includes a heavier pour of rum and uses lime juice instead of muddling, while he adds Angostura Bitters and eschews club soda. Gary Regan has a recipe that I think of as most traditional – muddled lime, sugar, mint, rum, and club soda. And after doing some testing, I would say that Dale DeGroff has my favorite recipe for my home use:

Dale DeGroff’s Mojito
2 sprigs mint
1 oz simple syrup
0.75 oz lime juice
1.5 oz rum
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Soda Water

Muddle one sprig of mint with lime and syrup. Add rum, bitters and ice and shake. Strain into an ice-filled high ball and top with soda water. (NB: The recipe is DeGroff’s but I don’t have his building instructions handy, so I am cribbing)

This is just a fantastic Mojito. It is light, crisp, tart, and balanced. I don’t know that I’ve ever made a better Mojito than when I’ve used DeGroff’s recipe. It’s just stellar.

When I was thinking about how I would make a modified Mojito, I wanted to reach towards DeGroff’s model, which meant using Angostura bitters and fresh lime juice. I also have found that using sparkling mineral water, as opposed to seltzer or regular club soda, yields a much crisper drink (I like using Apollinaris).

I also thought about one of my other favorite rum drinks, the Papa Doble, which is a Daiquiri with maraschino and grapefruit juice. I thought the model for the recipe, with the added fruit juice and small amount of liqueur, offered some potential structure for modifying the Mojito. I also thought the combination of mint and ginger in the Gin-Gin Mule offered a good instruction for another flavor to add to the mix.

I’m not certain that what I resulted with is what you would expect from the off-spring of the Mojito, Gin-Gin Mule and Papa Doble. Grapefruit juice was too dominant and I didn’t want to make a Papa Doble with club soda. But I do think it is something that is fun, light and clearly a relative of the Mojito, and if you look closely, these other phenomenal cocktails.

Finca Vigía Mojito
2 oz Bacardi Superior Rum
0.75 mint syrup*
0.75 fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.25 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
Dash Angostura Bitters
Sparkling Mineral Water
Mint

Combine Bacardi Superior Rum, mint syrup, lime, orange, Domaine de Canton, and Angostura Bitters in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and double-strain into a crushed-ice filled double rocks glass. Top with a splash of sparkling mineral water. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

* Mint Syrup: Make simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water. Add fresh mint leaves (10-12 per 4 ounces of syrup), lightly muddle mint, and let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours or until syrup has strong mint flavor. Strain mint leaves from syrup and store refrigerate the syrup until needed.

I have a couple thoughts on this creation. I think I meet the first goal I set for myself of capturing some of the flavor and complexity of the DeGroff Mojito, despite adding two new ingredients. This is definitely a different drink than the Mojito, though it stays light and refreshing. At the end of the day, I think this is a cocktail that I could enjoy on a hot, humid day in San Juan or Havana. And isn’t that the real measuring stick for the success of a cocktail inspired by a Mojito?

I went towards using a mint syrup because I wanted to find a place to have some difference from a Mojito. I think this still allows for much of the light and refreshing taste of mint. Sure, between this and the fresh lime juice, the iconic act of muddling is no longer a part of the cocktail. But I’m not going to succeed at reinventing the Mojito. It is already done too well. Simple improvements are nigh impossible. What I’ve made is a drink that is inspired by a Mojito, that seeks to honor the Mojito, but I hope is humble enough not to claim to be a Mojito.

Oh and the name, Finca Vigía, is the name of Ernest Hemingway’s house in Cuba. Again, as the Papa Doble was part of my model here, I wanted to honor him in the name of the drink.

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