Do you love a good mojito? You probably have a bar that makes your favorite one, or a recipe you tout as the best ever. But do you know about the original mojito? Who were the first to pioneer this refreshing, intoxicating and relatively skinny island cocktail?
Some questions about the Original Mojito…
We’re on vacation in Puerto Rico, and at dinner yesterday, the restaurant aggressively featured a surplus of banners stating “Bacardi’s Original Mojito.” We ordered them, and they were delicious. Not only did we get that snapshot for our memory, we got to keep the “Bacardi’s Original Mojito” signature plastic pint glasses–which we happily tucked away for poolside use back in San Diego this summer. And I got thinking…really? So I asked the waitress about the “original” statement, who, with pride, responds, “yes, the Mijoto is from Puerto Rico!” So strange as I was fairly confident the delicious drinkable originated in Cuba? If so, why does Bacardi stake claim on this well-known island favorite and post banners in prominent areas in Puerto Rico stating such? Is it possible they really built this cocktail to fuel their revenue fire? If so — bravo my friends — because the Mojito is a MUST HAVE in your summer cocktail repertoire!
What is a Mojito?
Generally speaking, the cocktail has only very simple and natural ingredients: lime, mint, sugar, soda water and rum. Easy and delicious. Even when I went to “skinny it up” for my low calorie cocktail book “SkinnyTinis — All the Fun for Half the Calories” all I could do was cut the sugar for a 35% reduction in calories. NBD compared to what you can do to a fuzzy navel or chocolate martini.
Now it’s time for some research on this “Original Mojito” business…
So after I saw Bacardi’s robust claims in Puerto Rico, and they conflicted with what I thought I knew, my skeptical researcher went into motion. As it turns out, its true origin really is a topic of debate. But one thing is very clear, the Mojito is from Cuba. Phew! I do know a thing or two about cocktails. But after reading no less than 10 articles from everything but Wikipedia, I think I have been able to string together a summary of the origins of this popular favorite and have been able to ansewr my own questions.
A little bit for the historians here…Mojito History
Early version of the mojito surfaced as far back as 1580. There is debate about whether it was the african slaves, cuban farmers or Sir Francis Drake and his associate Richard Drake who dressed up the hardly potable iteration of rum at the time called aguardiente.
But seeing as the Mojito got it’s name from “Mojo” and african word meaning “to place a little spell” I’ll put my money on the slaves. But the story has it that there was a drink named the El Draque; which mashed up aguardiente with mint, sugarcane and lime because they were on the island and made the drink tolerable.
Then Bacardi comes to town from Spain 1860 and is a lover of science and booze. He figures out you can charcoal filter aguardiente, and out comes something delicious — what we know as rum today. Way to go Bacardi and welcome to Cuba! Now the mojito is something truly amazing! When prohibition hits and “Havana’s rise as America’s favorite offshore cocktail lounge” the mojito hits home and spreads like wildfire. You’ve got historical figures like Hemingway and James Bond iconically enjoying the refreshing beverage.
So with a little history under our belts, let’s answer my original questions:
1. Why does Bacardi blast out statements like ”Bacardi Original Mojito” so confidently and robustly? A Cuban playwright and poet stated ”When aguardiente became rum, the Draque became the Mojito.” I does look like Bacardi was the first one to figure out rum in Cuba in the mid 1800′s. So it only makes logical sense to give them credit for the Mojito as well.
2. How did Puerto Rico get in the mix? In the 1960′s Bacardi left Cuba because Castro was making things difficult and they moved a portion of their production to Puerto Rico. But it’s not really the local favorite, just the most widely distributed. DonQ seems to be the favorite and it’s quite good! So if Bacardi is the Origional Mojito, and Bacardi is now produced in Puerto Rico — it’s stands to reason why that sweet waitress thought the Mojito was from Puerto Rico as well.
Phew – mystery solved!
So what does Bacardi’s Original Mojito recipe look like?
Bacardi also built a pretty sharp video on how to make the mojito magic. To skinny it up, just use a zero calorie sweetener like Sweet n’low, stevia or erithritol.
I’m so happy I feel like a Mojito historian now. And you know what? Regardless of the true nature of it’s origin — I’m just glad the recipe made its way all the way west and we can sip in serenity and stare at the pacific in peace. We are home from Puerto Rico now and plan to sip Mojitos pools side today…in our signature Bacardi Mojito pint glasses, but made with DonQ — so fun!