The Mojito is the quintessential Cuban cocktail. Made with just five ingredients - rum, mint, lime, soda water, and sugar (originally sugar cane nectar), the pride of Havana is as easy to make as it is refreshing to drink.
The history of the Mojito is a little unclear. A popular theory traces the recipe back to the 16th century, when the crew of Sir Francis Drake’s expedition created an elixir to combat scurvy and dysentery. Using the available ingredients of crude white rum made, sugar cane juice, mint, and lime. Also up for debate is the origin of the name Mojito. Maybe the name came from mojo, a Cuban seasoning made from lime. Maybe it came from the diminutive Spanish word for “wet”, mojado.
Whatever the origin, it’s tough to argue with the Mojito’s well-deserved legacy in the cocktail world. Here are some amazing Mojito-slinging locales around town you need to try.
Doña Habana, Boston
Named for the ancestral Cuban figure who honors the women in Cuban society, Doña Habana serves solid traditional Cuban cuisine. A second restaurant is located on Massachusetts Avenue. Their menu features a wide range of dishes, including tostones con mojo de ajo (fried green plantains with garlic), paella de mariscos (seasoned rice with seafood), and a personal favorite, moros y cristianos (white rice and black beans).
Eating all this amazing food is bound to make you thirsty. What could be better than a cool, refreshing Mojito? Well, Doña Habana’s bar has 53 different choices. Mango, coconut, papaya - they pretty much have every Mojito base you can think of covered.
11 Melnea Cass Blvd., Boston, 617-708-0796, donahabanarestaurant.com
If you’re looking for a classic Mojito without all the Cuban culture, RumBa is just the place to go. Located inside the Intercontinental Hotel, this bar’s name playfully pays homage to Boston’s rich rum history with a portmanteau of rum and bar. (True to Bostonian parlance, the “r” in bar is silent.) Modern and elegant, RumBa offers a great raw bar and appetizers to accompany your cocktail. If you’re looking to venture beyond a traditional Mojito, they offer a range of interesting variations including clementine, blueberry, and cucumber. Need a little more kick? Order your Mojito “dirty” and enjoy the kick from the Plantation Grande Reserve rum.
510 Atlantic Ave. (inside the Intercontinental Hotel), Boston, 617-217-5148, intercontinentalboston.com/dining/rumba
Casa Caña, Allston/Brighton
Ask Casa Caña owner Teodora Bakardzhieva what the secret is to a top-notch Mojito, and her answer is immediate. “High quality white rum. Fresh, large mint leaves. And no muddling!” Bar manager Heath Landry concurs. “When you muddle the leaves you bruise them,” he says. Another no-no? Making it too sweet, a transgression Bakardzhieva simply cannot abide. “That’s a common misconception,” she says. “Mojitos don’t have to be sweet drinks. A little sugar is all you need. Any more and you’ve ruined the drink.”
Casa Caña’s Mojitos are made the old-school way, making rum the focus. “We like the classic recipe,” Landry confides. White rum, sugar cane juice, large mint leaves, lime, and a splash of soda water. Shaken quickly to incorporate everything, then served over ice with a plump mint sprig for a garnish. It couldn’t be simpler or more delicious, and a perfect compliment to the enticing Cuban menu.
1234 Soldier’s Field Rd., Allston/Brighton, 617-415-5402, casacanaboston.com
The Townshend, Quincy
High on the list of reasons to visit The Townshend is because the guys and gals tending bar know their stuff. I mean, really know their stuff. They make most of their own mixers. They chip their own ice off a giant block. They understand the chemistry and magic involved in mixology. They know the origins of all the drinks they make.
Their passion for what they do is unmistakable. This not only means classic Mojitos are made to perfection, it also means they are well-equipped to go off the beaten path and explore the possibilities. Don’t like simple syrup? No problem. Want to mix it up with pineapple? Can do. If you’re up for an adventure, give the bartender a few adjectives and let them create their own variation. You won’t be disappointed.
1250 Hancock St., Quincy, 617-481-9694, thetownshend.com
Just a few blocks down from the Brookline Village green line T stop is Orinoco, a Latin restaurant inspired by Venezuelan roadside eateries serving up authentic cuisine. (They also have locations in Harvard Square and the South End.) Grab a seat in their comfortable back patio, and dive in.
Their menu is loaded with specialties like black bean and cheese arepas (grilled corn-flour sandwiches), tajadas (fried, sweet plantains), empanadas... and of course, killer Mojitos. And their specialty drink The Autentico is just what it sounds like - a deliciously simple combination of white rum, lime, and simple syrup. Want to mix it up a bit? They also offer versions made with spicy simple syrup, shredded coconut, and other variations, if you're feeling adventurous.
22 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-232-9505, orinocokitchen.com