Love cocktails? I do, who doesn’t?! Recently an email popped into my inbox about a Havana Club Mojito masterclass, what a great idea and apart from the obvious wanting to drink Mojitos, the opportunity to learn more about the drink and it’s history. Cuba brings back a tonne of amazing memories from a holiday that the best mate and I had there four years ago, part of that was of course sampling lots of Mojitos! In fact it was the first drink we had when we arrived at our hotel.
Havana Club UK recently began a certification programme and have been on a quest to find the best, most authentic Cuban Mojitos in the UK, searching the length and breadth of the country. Leeds has some great independent cocktails bars and three have been singled out – The Maven, Viva Cuba and Call Lane Social, using the freshest of ingredients and Havana Club Añejo 3 Años rum and been awards with a certified badge, because they feel these bars stays true to the Havana Club tradition, work with same ethos as the brand and are passionate about what they do.
Having Havana Club UK’s global ambassador Meimi Sanchez there to explain more about the drinks origins was a treat, as from our trip there’d always been something I wanted to know – why mojitos in Cuba tasted slightly different to ones I’d drank here. They weren’t as sharp and zingy for some reason, Meimi explained that Cuban ‘limes’ are slightly different, it’s more of a fusion between lime and lemon, with sweetness and more of a softer citrus. In the UK, Brazilian limes are often used which are more tangy, and also Cuban mint is more aromatic, softer on the nose, whereas here the mint is much more course and more punchy. All makes more sense now!!
With a passion for her native Cuba and the drink it was fascinating chatting to Meimi and listening to her describe number of theories to how the Mojito was first created –
Firstly, in the 15/16th century sailors were rationed on rum, maybe hard to believe but true, as water was unhygienic, so when Sir Francis Drake got to Havana his crew were suffering from scurvy and dysentery, knowing that the locals had some sort of medicinal drink that could get rid of this he got the ingredients for making it. This being aguardiente de caña made from the syrup which is extracted from sugar cane (guarapa) )which means fire water (76%), combining that with lime (stops scurvy), sugar and mint (improves taste). Who knew that Mojitos were good for you?!
Another possible theory comes from the idea that the slave trade was instrumental in the invention of the drink, as slaves worked in the sugar cane plantations, so had direct access to grape the syrup extracted from sugar cane.
Regardless of how the Mojito originated in Cuba, the drink is still made in the same way and classically uses five ingredients. La Bodeguita del Medio, a famous restaurant/bar in Old Havana, opened in1949, lays claim to having invented to Mojito and the place is well known for being a regular haunt of many creatives, including writer Ernest Hemingway. The same recipe has been used since then, with speedy bartenders make them in seconds.
I’ve never made a Mojito at home, probably because I thought I’d need to use fancy equipment so just gave up, but with a little thought, basics that you’d have in any kitchen would be more than adequate. Meimi quickly demonstrated the steps to make one, also explaining the reasons for doing specific things with ingredients. Then I had a little go myself – it was so simple and of course with a little bit of tweaking made to my own taste too!!
Thanks Havana Club UK, I had a great time, not just for the obvious, but because I learned a lot about Cuba and can relate to it only adds to the fantastic experience I had over there.
With Leeds Loves Cocktails week starting on the 1st June, I thought this ties in beautifully in with the Havana Club masterclass. Many of Leeds’ best bars involved, holding events, demonstrations, talks on cocktails and their history. If you’re a lover of cocktails, I may see you there.