Yes, yes, we know the Mojito is the quintessential summer drink. But in the same way those clever UV lamps trick the body into thinking it’s had a long charge of daylight, we think this cocktail can have the same effect on the winter weary.

Mojito, classic

Mojito, classic

It’s all to do with the ingredients – think of them as sunshine in liquid form. Rum, mint, lime and sugar, lengthened with refreshing soda water and topped with plenty of crushed ice – if that little combo doesn’t warm you from the inside out, we really don’t know what will.

No wonder the Mojito is one of the bestselling cocktails around. Not bad for a recipe which dates back to the 17th Century, reputed to have started life called ‘El Draque’ in honour of intrepid sailor and explorer Sir Francis Drake. When it’s done well, the five-ingredient recipe appeals to most palates, just add less sugar if you like things on the sour side; more if you have a sweet tooth, and is extremely versatile.

The basic recipe is simple enough (see below) but if you want to pimp it up, try adding muddled soft fruit-like fresh berries and currants or watermelon to the mix. Cucumber works well too. As does a tot of peach puree. You can also play around with the base spirit. Ernest Hemingway may have sworn by his rum Mojito, inscribing “Mi mojito en la Bodeguita’ on the wall of La Bodeguita del medi in Cuba but that doesn’t mean you can’t twist up the recipe with tequila or gin instead.

As for that soda water, replace it with champagne for a touch of luxury (but more potency) or, as we learned from Guiseppe Ruo when he was managing the bar at Galvin at Windows, a cheeky splash of Budvar brings a whole different character to the party. Try it and see for yourself.

Simple mojito recipe:

-8 mint leaves

-Ice

-50ml white rum (Bacardi or Havana Club)

-10ml fresh lime juice

-25ml sugar syrup

-12.5ml chilled club soda

-Sprig of mint to garnish

Method:

Muddle the mint leaves by pressing downwards with a twisting motion to release juices and oils in a cocktail shaker. Add the ice and rum, lime juice and sugar syrup and shake well. Strain into an Collins glass filled with crushed ice and stir in the soda water. Garnish with the fresh mint sprig.

The Cocktail Lovers say:

*If you’re counting the calories, this is a good one to have on your radar – a 4oz serving comes in at around 150 calories. Sip and enjoy without feeling (too) guilty.

*This is also a great one for parties as you can make up a nice big batch in advance. Just scale up the ingredients, follow the same method but prepare in a large jug and leave out the soda. When your guests arrive pour into glasses filled with crushed ice. Top up with soda and garnish with mint.

This week we’re loving:

Malacca, the re-released, limited-edition spiced gin from Tanqueray. You can only buy it from a few, very special sources like The Whisky Exchange but you can try it in select bars. We sampled the deliciously orangey, slightly spicy, subtly complex concoction in some bang-on-the-money bespoke creations at Artesian at The Langham hotel. Go see what all the fuss is about.

Written for The Independent Dish of the Day blog 7/3/2013

The Independent

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