August cocktail of the month: the mojito

by Great British Chefs 24 August 2022

One of the most popular summer cocktails in existence, mojitos never fail to go down a treat in the warm weather. We delve into the history of this classic cocktail, before taking a look at the ultimate dishes to serve with a mojito.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

The most special kinds of food and drinks are those which can instantly transport you somewhere else; a mere spoonful of cheese-covered onion soup can be enough to conjure up images of Parisian streets while even a sip of Guinness can take you immediately to a Dublin boozer. For those wanting to be whisked away to the golden beaches of Cuba, however there are few things better than Havana’s most famous cocktail – the mojito.

Combining rum with sugar, mint, soda water and lime juice, a mojito may sound like a simple concoction, but when expertly mixed it can be something quite magical – a cocktail that’s refreshing, packed with flavour and boozy in equal measure. Although there’s nothing to say that mojitos can’t be imbibed right the way through the year, they’re unquestionably best enjoyed when sat outside in the baking sun, which comes as little surprise given their roots in the Caribbean, where they continue to hold legendary status.

While it’s almost certain that Cuba is the birthplace of the mojito, its actual origins are still somewhat up for debate. The most common story however, credits Sir Francis Drake as being an important part of the cocktail’s creation. It’s said that after failing to invade Cuba in 1586, some of Drake’s crew went ashore to seek out a remedy for dysentery and scurvy, and returned with a combination of aguardiente de caña (a sugar cane spirit, which was a precursor to rum), lime and sugar cane juices, and mint. The drink helped ease the sailors’ symptoms (the lime juice probably doing most of the work) and thereafter it was known as ‘El Draque’ after the English explorer.

It's believed that British explorer Sir Francis Drake and his crew may have invented an early version of the mojito in 1586.
Well-know bar, La Bodeguita del Medio however, claim that they shook up the first mojito in the mid-twentieth century.

That doesn’t though, explain where the famous cocktail gets its modern name from. Well, it’s believed that African slaves working in Cuba might have actually named the aguardiente de caña drink after the African word ‘mojo’, meaning ‘to cast a little spell’, thanks to its medicinal qualities. This whole story however, is disputed by Havana’s famous bar, La Bodeguita del Medio, who themselves claim to have invented the mojito when they opened their doors in 1942. Ernest Hemingway is also said to have fallen in love with La Bodeguita del Medio’s version of the cocktail.

Regardless of its true origin, the past hundred years in particular have seen the mojito become one of the best-loved cocktails around, not just in Cuba but all over the world. Its brilliant balance of sweetness, sourness, and freshness make it a wonderfully easy cocktail to drink, particularly in the warm weather, with many people serving it up at home as well as at bars. The easy-drinking nature of a mojito also makes it a fantastic cocktail to enjoy alongside food, whether it’s at a casual barbecue or a glitzy dinner party.

We understand that sometimes when hosting, you might want to keep things as simple as possible, so may want to avoid shaking up cocktails of your own whilst also preparing the food. Fortunately, thanks to trend-leading, ready-to-drink cocktails from MOTH, it’s now easy to buy premixed cocktails, which pack all the punch of a cocktail that’s been freshly made but simply need pouring into a glass. MOTH partner with premium spirit brands (Duppy Share rum for their mojito) to ensure their cocktails are of the highest quality, providing drinkers with a bar-quality, full-strength cocktails in a can. With MOTH’s ready-to-drink canned mojito, you can stop worrying about squeezing limes and measuring out rum while hosting, and instead focus on cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Planning a mojito party and unsure of what food to serve? Check out these six perfect recipes for inspiration

Sous vide Cuban-style pulled pork with mango and pineapple salsa

Where better to start for inspiration than the birthplace of the mojito itself? This Cuban-style pulled pork comes marinated in cumin, oregano, orange and lime and is best piled on top of a tortilla and topped with the vibrant salsa – the perfect dish to put in the middle of the table and enjoy alongside a few mojitos.

Lobster tagliatelle

Add a touch of luxury to proceedings with this stunning lobster tagliatelle from Francesco Mazzei, which will transport you to the Italian coast. A mojito may not seem like the traditional accompaniment for a big bowl of pasta but is a great way of cutting through the richness of the dish.

Barbecue marinated chicken thighs

In our eyes, barbecues and mojitos go hand in hand as both are made for the warm weather. If you’re wanting to try a simple but delicious barbecue recipe, these chicken thighs marinated in ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic and mustard are good place to start.

Scallop, tuna and salmon ceviche with mango

Vivek Singh’s take on a traditional Mexican ceviche combines raw scallop, salmon and tuna with a punchy mango dressing. We suggest serving this ceviche as part of a summertime spread alongside a moreish, bittersweet mojito.

Sweetcorn kurkure

India couldn’t be much further away from Havana, but that’s not to say that Chet Sharma’s spiced sweetcorn fritters aren’t brilliant mouthfuls to enjoy alongside the classic Cuban cocktail. Put a plateful out for everyone to dive into or have the whole lot to yourself!

Raspberry pavlova

Summer desserts don’t come more traditional than this stunning raspberry pavlova – the ultimate centrepiece to conclude an outdoor get-together. Packed full of sugar and garnished with a sprinkling of mint leaves, this pretty pudding has more in common with the mojito than first meets the eye, and that’s reason enough to have them both together.