It’s no secret there’s a rum renaissance sweeping across America, a resurgence no doubt tied to the recent revival of craft Cuban cocktails—chief among them the hand-shaken daiquiri. Yet in South Florida, many are especially partial to another Cuban classic: the mojito. And we’re not alone. The whole country gets in on the tropical action on July 11, which is National Mojito Day. To celebrate, INDULGE set out to find the ultimate thirst-quenching recipe for a cocktail so ubiquitous in these parts some bartenders have written it off as passé. Our source: Giovanny Gutiérrez, the Cuban-born, Miami-raised executive producer of Chat Chow TV, a popular video podcast that goes behind the scenes with acclaimed chefs and mixologists in Miami, California and Chicago.
Gutiérrez’s mojito insight comes thanks to a trip to Cuba he took last fall with an exclusive group of bartenders, led by world-renowned mixologist Julio Cabrera. Together they traveled to Havana and Santiago to exchange knowledge with the island’s legendary cocktail masters at historic landmarks like the famed El Floridita and Sloppy Joe’s Bar. They also met with the Asociación de Cantineros de Cuba, the island’s professional bartenders’ guild for nearly 100 years. But it wasn’t until Gutiérrez walked in to Havana’s Bar Dos Hermanos that he saw something completely new—the true “mojito criollo.” “It made all of our heads spin!” Gutiérrez laughs. “Coming from Miami, we thought we knew mojitos, but we’d never seen anything like this.”
Here, Gutiérrez shares the recipe he learned that day, which calls for more sugar and mint than the typical mojito served in the States. The method of preparation, he said, is different too, explaining the mint leaves are spared the assault of a bartender’s muddler. The result? A cocktail that’s perfectly clear and almost golden in color. While nary a loose mint leaf is found floating around, the drink’s enchanting herbal aroma is a delicious reminder of exactly what you’re drinking.
The last few years brought about the resurgence of classic Cuban cocktails. Here are three that merit a drive to the local bars that serve them. The first is rare, the second a modern twist on an old-school combination, the last an enduring classic.
Canchánchara at The Regent Cocktail Club: Visit local mixology star Julio Cabrera on Wednesday nights for a taste of Havana with his Canchánchara cocktail made of white rum or aguardiente with fresh lemon, honey syrup and crushed ice. (The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale, 1690 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.)
Cuba Libre at The Bazaar: Forget what you know about rum-and-coke. This cocktail is served in a wine glass, over a sphere of ice with Coca-Cola imported from Mexico. As in the kind that’s made with real cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup, which is what American Coke is made with. Angostura bitters, fresh lemon juice, a cinnamon stick, and a lemon peel finish it off. (The Bazaar at the SLS, 1701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.)
Classic Daiquiri at MO Bar + Lounge: Sometimes the simplest drinks are the trickiest to pull off. With nothing more than rum, fresh lime and sugar, the ingredients of a classic daiquiri have to be perfectly shaken by hand. A task the bartenders at MO Bar appreciate—and get just right. (MO Bar at the Mandarin Oriental, 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami.)
2 heaping teaspoons of granulated sugar
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 to 2 full sprigs of fresh mint
1 ½ oz white rum
1 oz club soda
In a collins glass, add the sugar and lime and muddle to mix well. Add the mint sprigs, and muddle gently focusing only on the stems and sparing the leaves. Add the rum. Rub a fresh mint leaf around the rim of the glass, releasing the herb’s oils and discarding the leaf after. Add ice cubes and gently stir the cocktail with a bar spoon. Top off with club soda and serve immediately.