All it took was one balmy afternoon spent at the ancient wooden bar at La Bodeguita to convert me. Somehow, the mix of cool mint, a blast of white rum, and a hit of sugar, all muddled together became the most refreshing drink I’d ever tasted.
The classic Cuban mojito is best enjoyed in its natural environment in Old Havana, Cuba– preferably at Hemingway’s favorite mojito bar. Sit at the bar and watch as the bartender lines up the glasses by the half-dozen, expertly melding the ingredients with a wooden muddler.
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Mojitos in Cuba– the Real Thing
You don’t need to go to Hemingway’s favorite to find a great mojito in old Havana– every bar and restaurant will be pretty skilled in churning mojitos out. I’m not even sure that La Bodeguita’s was the best mojito I had in Havana– they were all so good it was pretty hard to distinguish them. I also sampled tasty flavored versions like watermelon mojitos (don’t miss these at 301 in Old Havana), but I still kept coming back to the classic version of the mojito.
Cuban mojitos have only a few ingredients and shouldn’t be particularly hard to make. But if you’ve tried mojitos at bars outside of Cuba, you might have noticed that they can be very hit or miss. I’m convinced improper muddling is to blame. If the ingredients don’t marry together just so, they can have a harsh flavor.
I wanted to recreate those refreshing mojitos I loved in Havana– but in pretty much the opposite environment, my tiny Manhattan apartment (in less than balmy conditions). To make my mojitos as authentic as possible, I made sure to pick up the same Cuban rum I saw used at every single bar in Havana– Havana Club three year white rum.
Cuba Souvenir: Havana Three Year Rum
Havana Club rum has been around since 1934. Although it’s readily available all over Cuba, Havana Club rum is of course impossible to buy legally in the United States since the Castro embargo.
But it is perfectly legal to bring back Cuban rum for personal use if you visit Cuba. Make sure to buy the white rum if you plan to use it for mojitos. The pricier Havana Club seven year dark rum is also tasty but is too dark for mojitos. While you can pick up the classic Havana Club 3 year rum anywhere in Cuba, buying it on your way out at the airport is the easiest (no need to place it in checked luggage).
To replicate the “look” of Cuban mojitos, I recommend buying a pair or more of Havana Club club glasses that bars use to serve the mojitos. I bought mine in a hotel gift shop for about one CUC each. I also swiped a few of those Havana Club plastic stirrers from the bar to use in my drinks back home.
After googling and testing online Cuban mojito recipes, I came up with this classic version that seemed to most resemble the mojitos I loved in Havana.
Authentic Cuban Mojito Recipe (makes one)
45 ml (3 tablespoons or one shot) of Havana Club three year rum (or other white rum if not available)
2 teaspoons white sugar
2-3 sprigs of mint
90 ml sparkling water (two shots)
half a lime
3 ice cubes
Squeeze the lime and mix with the sugar. Muddle (press down and twist) the mint with the lime and sugar (if you don’t have a muddler, the handle of a wooden spoon will work). Add the rum and ice cubes. Finish with sparkling water. Mix again. Garnish with a mint sprig.