Be-Mixed and Be-Muddled: 6 Fresh Ideas for Mojito Day

National

Image: Cuba Libre's Grilled Pineapple Mojito

Harvest that rooftop garden-grown mint for these rum-tastic sips.

Bartenders often hate making them, but guests can’t get enough of them. Sure, the Mojito may be labor-intensive, but when you come right down to it, it’s a damn tasty cocktail. And, when you switch things up with grilled pineapple, fresh sugarcane juice or lavender bitters, the results are downright irresistible. Go ahead, embrace that muddler.

Pineapple Grilled Mojito from Cuba Libre - National Mojito Day 2016

Grilled Pineapple Mojito

Recipe courtesy of Cuba Libre

Take a cue from tacos al pastor and add some sweet and tangy grilled pineapple to your Mojito. Licor 43 lends herbal notes, and guarapo (fresh sugarcane juice) in lieu of simple syrup gives it authenticity. “The appeal of the Grilled Pineapple Mojito is the slightly smoky flavor that the grilling of the pineapple adds to the already refreshing and sweet Mojito,” says chef-partner Guillermo Pernot.

  • ¾ oz. Don Q Crystal Rum
  • ¾ oz. Licor 43
  • 2 ½ oz. Guarapo
  • 1 ¼ oz. lime juice
  • ¾ oz. grilled pineapple puree (see Note)
  • 6 sprigs yerba buena
  • 1 splash lemon lime soda
  • Pineapple wedge, for garnish

In a mixing glass, add the rum, Licor 43, guarapo, pineapple puree and lime juice. Tear sprigs of yerba buena and add to mixing glass. Add ice and shake well. Pour the drink into a Zombie glass over fresh ice, top with lemon lime soda, and garnish with the pineapple wedge.

For the grilled pineapple puree:

Place large peeled strips of pineapple on a grill on medium heat, turning occasionally until grilled. Remove from heat, let cool, and puree in a blender. Store the puree in a refrigerator until needed.

Coconut Mojito at Cuba Libre - National Mojito Day 2016

Coconut Mojito

Recipe courtesy of Cuba Libre

Piña Colada Day just happens to fall around the same time as Mojito Day. This mash-up with minty yerba buena get its creamy coconut flavor from both coconut rum and cream of coconut, plus a kick of heady ginger liqueur. “The Coconut Mojito evokes a feeling of being in the Caribbean,” says Pernot, “which is easy to imagine while sipping this beverage inside Cuba Libre, whose ornate and architecturally-detailed interior looks just like a street scene in Old Havana.”

  • 1 ¼ - 1 ½ oz. Don Q Coco Rum
  • ¾ oz. Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut
  • 2 ½ oz. guarapo
  • 1 ¼ oz. lime juice
  • 6 sprigs yerba buena
  • ¼ oz. Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
  • Lime wheel, for garnish

In a mixing glass, add the rum, cream of coconut, guarapo, lime juice and Barrow’s. Tear the yerba buena and add to mixing tin. Fill with ice, shake well, pour into Zombie glass over fresh ice, and garnish with the lime wheel.

Mango Mojito at Strip House - National Mojito Day 2016

Mango Mojito

Recipe courtesy of Strip House at Westminster Hotel, Livingston, New Jersey

The addition of ripe chunks of mango easily change the profile of the classic cocktail, yet the other ingredients still remain integral components, says beverage director Jono Moratis. “Remember that the lime and mint are not just for garnish,” he says. “When constructing the cocktail, muddling the lime and mint thoroughly releases the oil from the lime skin as well as the juice, and breaks down the mint to release the flavor.”

  • 3 oz. mango chunks
  • 7 fresh mint leaves, reserving 1 for garnish
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 oz. rum
  • 1 tb. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tb. club soda

Muddle the mango, 6 mint leaves and sugar in a Collins or hurricane glass. Add rum, lemon juice, soda and ice, and stir to combine. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.

Botany Cocktail Lavender Mojito at Restaurant Serenade - National Mojito Day 2016

Botany Cocktail

Recipe courtesy of Restaurant Serenade, Chatham Township, NJ. Photo by John Jansma.

Mint not adding enough fragrance to your Mojito? This version coaxes out some heady florality through lavender bitters and a lavender sprig garnish. “A good Mojito is refreshing, relatively low in alcohol, and perfectly balanced,” says beverage director John Jansma. “A Mojito will cool you down and keep you sober enough to enjoy the summer sun.”

  • 1 ½ oz. Bacardi White Rum
  • 1 oz. clarified lime juice
  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 bar spoon rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
  • 1 dash Fee Brothers Lavender Bitters
  • Soda water
  • Lavender sprig, for garnish

Gently bruise the mint leaves in a mixing glass with a muddler. Add the clarified lime juice, rich simple syrup, lavender bitters, rum and ice, and stir for 30 to 45 seconds. Add soda water and strain over fresh ice in a highball glass, and garnish with a sprig of lavender.

Gardenia Mediterranean Basilito - National Mojito Day 2016

Mediterranean Basilito

Recipe courtesy of Gardenia, New York, NY

This cocktail admittedly pushes the Mojito envelope a little bit. Cachaça stands in for regular rum, and mint is eschewed for basil leaves. Never mind the technicalities, though, it’s one delicious tipple. And no matter the herbs in the shaker, use a light hand with that muddler. “Don't grind and smash the herbs too much while muddling,” says head bartender Sonny Nelson. “The flavor will come out much more crisp and refreshing rather than swampy and gross.”

  • 2 oz. Cachaça
  • ¾ of a lime
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • 5 muddled basil leaves
  • Soda water

Muddle the lime, simple syrup and basil in a mixing glass. Add cachaça and ice, and shake until chilled. Strain it into a Collins glass over fresh ice, and top with the soda water.

Fuego Mojito by Fuego Cocina y Tequileria - National Mojito Day 2016

Fuego Mojito

Recipe adapted from Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, Arlington, VA

For this Mojito, the secret is in the sweetener. “The sugarcane juice has a sweet and more complex flavor than processed sugar – not to mention it’s better for you,” declares general manager Ryan McCarthy. Because Fuego staff doesn’t use preservatives they need to make guarapo often, and in small batches, but the fresh flavor builds a better Mojito.

  • ½ oz. freshly-pressed sugarcane juice
  • ½ oz. mint syrup (see note)
  • 1 ½ oz. Castillo White Rum
  • 3-4 mint leaves
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • Seltzer or club soda

Place the lime wedges, 3 to 4 mint leaves and mint syrup in a cocktail glass, and muddle gently. Add the rum and ice, and shake well until chilled. Strain it into a Collins or pint glass over fresh ice and top with club soda.

For the mint syrup:

Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove it from the heat and add 5 sprigs of mint. Steep until desired flavor is reached, discard solids, and store syrup in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter  and Instagram  @kmagyarics.