Cocktail Hour: Aaron Joseph’s Mojito Recipe

All eyes have been on Cuba lately, with the Obamas’ historic visit to the island and the overall easing of U.S. travel restrictions. As enticing as a trip to the island sounds, there’s no need to buy a plane ticket to celebrate the country’s culture – especially its fantastic food and drink.

Cuba might be best known for its eponymous sandwich – that pressed stack of ham, pork, mustard and pickles – but it’s also home to fantastic tangy pulled pork dishes and excellent black beans. Plus, the drinks.

When it comes to Cuban cocktails, the best place to start is with a mojito, the classic Cubano concoction of rum, lime and mint. It’s sweet, tart, bright and perfect for springtime.

So pull out that cutting board and start slicing and juicing some limes (even better if it’s our “Happy Hour” cutting board) – then call some friends over for an afternoon of Cuban-inspired entertaining.

Traditionally, mojitos are made with granular sugar, carefully muddled into slices of lime and mint leaves. Baltimore bartender-about-town Aaron Joseph’s take on the drink simplifies the process a bit, replacing the sugar with cane syrup (which you can make yourself) and skipping the muddle in favor of a good smack. The smack does the job of muddling, releasing the mint’s natural oils.

Joseph adds all the ingredients to a Collins glass, simply mixes them together and tops the concoction with ice.

Joseph favors Papa’s Pilar rum, named for Ernest Hemingway, one of America’s most well-known admirers of pre-embargo Cuba (Pilar was the name of Hemingway’s boat). Hemingway was a special fan of the daiquiri, but the author was famously open to all sorts of cocktail combinations. We think he’d more than approve of this minty-tart mojito.

Make it for yourself, either muddling the traditional way, or using Joseph’s streamlined recipe:

Papa’s Pilar Mojito by Aaron Joseph

1 ½ ounces Papa’s Pilar rum

¾ ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice

½ ounce cane syrup

12 mint leaves

3 ounces soda water

Mint sprig to garnish

Smack the mint leaves to release their natural oils. Place the leaves and all liquids in a Collins glass, top with ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Enjoy – and if you find your glass empty, repeat!

For happy hour, pair the drink with plantain chips and fresh salsa and some island-inspired tunes – or maybe a few Rolling Stones songs, to commemorate their free concert in Havana. Don’t forget a few extra limes, a sprig or two of mint and your copy of Old Man and the Sea.

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