Tag Archives: mojito

Havana Club Mojito masterclass!! 

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.

Pre-theatre tapas @ Sandinista

I’m a massive Strictly Come Dancing fan and had tickets for Midnight Tango, with Flavia and Vincent from the show @ The Grand Theatre booked for months. The criteria for food was somewhere I’d not been to before, but was also close to the theatre. Sandinista the popular Cantina bar was the place of choice on this occasion. imageFor those of you who don’t know of Sandinista, it’s a Latino based bar that has been open since 2002, just around the corner from nearby cocktail haven Mojo. From being such a successful bar in Leeds it has also opened a sister venue Smokestack on Lower Briggate and another Sandinista in Manchester.
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Even though I’d been many times for late night drinks on a Saturday, I’d never eaten there before. They had a couple of deals on offer – 3 tapas for £10 or 20% discount on food and drinks with a valid theatre ticket. We couldn’t miss an opportunity for having a cocktail as we were in one of the best cocktail bars in Leeds. We decided to partake in some cocktails of the mojito kind, so we could also reminisce about a well-loved holiday in Cuba.
Mojitos
Mojitos (of course!!)

They have a tapas menu with a lot of choice, both for meat eaters and vegetarians. Over the last few months I’ve been looking at places which also cater for gluten free and at least half of their menu is. Our man took a minute to go through the menu, including the specials and platters. We opted for a selection of 6 different dishes. The food took a little while to arrive (probably because we did order quite a lot of food), but they did arrive all at the same time and completely filled our table.

Gratinado de berenjas - Aubergine and tomato gratin
Gratinado de berenjas – Aubergine and tomato gratin
Croquetas de Bacalao - salt cod croquettes with aioli
Croquetas de Bacalao – salt cod croquettes with aioli
Rice and beans
Rice and beans
Tortilla - Spanish omelette with aioli
Tortilla – Spanish omelette with aioli
Alubias estofadas con panceta - roasted pork belly with a white bean and truffle cassoulet
Alubias estofadas con panceta – roasted pork belly with a white bean and truffle cassoulet
Chorizo asado - roasted chorizo with potato, onion, almond and manchego cheese
Chorizo asado – roasted chorizo with potato, onion, almond and manchego cheese

I didn’t know there to start we had so much choice, everything was yummy!! I think my favourites were the Aubergine dish – the aubergine had the right balance between being soft, but still had texture so it wasn’t like baby food. The melted mozzarella provided the seasoning and was unctuous and characteristically stringy. I loved the pork belly, with its crispy crackling and soft tender meat, it came with a tasty creamy white bean stew. Having a bowl of rice and beans will always remind my best mate and I of sitting in one of the many paladares in Havana and Trinidad. It was tasty, but not a patch on the ones we remember from those memorable Cuban evenings. The croquettes were good, possibly a little too ‘golden’ but the breadcrumb crust was light and thin and the filling was good, not too salty!! The tortilla was probably my least favourite, it was nice but a little under seasoned for my taste and more firm than I would have preferred. I will always compare tortilla to the heavenly ones I had on holiday in Northern Spain a few years ago. Where the egg bordered on being fully cooked or just runny, allowing the tortilla to have a little bit of give. All in all we enjoyed our pre-theatre meal and I was certainly very full at the end of it!!

We washed our food down with great mojitos, plenty of rum, mint and lime giving the drink its characteristic zing.

Overall the service was friendly, cocktails were great and the food was tasty. A couple of things I know i’m probably being a little picky about, but that aside I enjoyed the meal a lot.

With the 20% discount our total bill came to £35 (including tip) for 2 people. Pretty good I think, we both walked off to the theatre well fed and watered!! I’d always recommend Sandinista for drinks on a Saturday night, but I’ll also be recommending them for food now too!!

Sandinista Cantina bar

5/5a Cross Belgrave Street
Leeds
LS28JP
0113 243 0395
http://www.sandinista.co.uk/leeds/

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