I’m often asked what cocktail I would recommend for children.
Actually I’ve never been asked that, but if I was, I know what I would answer.
Firstly, I would say that cocktails are not for children. Yes I would.
Then, apropos of nothing, I would mention the Mojito.
The IBA lists this long drink amongst its “Contemporary Classics” despite it potentially being one of the world’s oldest cocktails, possibly dating back as far as 16th century Cuba.
Like many cocktails, “El Draque” as it was originally called in honour of Sir Francis Drake, it appears to have been created to cover the taste of the alcohol.
No need to dissect Drake’s interest in cocktails, other than to say there was dysentery and scurvy involved and we all know cocktails are necessary to stay in tip top health.
The Mojitos are neither too sweet nor too alcohol-y in flavour to offend most palates.
Hence they are a good “starter” cocktail.
They are easy to make at home, although definitely better suited to a summer afternoon than a cold winter night in Sydney.
Muddle 6 mint sprigs (spearmint if you can) with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 90 mL lime juice.
Add splash of soda water and fill glass with cracked ice. Pour 120 mL rum and top with soda water.
I’m going to add some fresh ginger to my muddling next time too.
The IBA recipe calls for White Cuban Rum and the name Bacardi has been synonymous with the Mojito.
But Bacardi is no longer a Cuban rum.
Bacardi was established in Cuba in 1862 and its signature bat dates back as far. A good omen apparently.
(This was clearly before the Lyssavirus which will kill you if you are bitten or scratched by an infected bat. So don’t touch goddamned filthy bats – dead or alive – in Australia and instil the fear of God into your children about bats and if anyone does get bitten or scratched, tell a doctor immediately and get on the medication cos’ then you won’t die. Ok? Good).
Anyhoo, in 1960, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary regime in Cuba seized all of Bacardi’s assets and they had to make a treacherous voyage across the sea to Miami.
Castro, who now looks like someone’s lovely old uncle, was responsible for thousands of deaths as boats would ram-raid smaller vessels full of refugees, and made the rest of his populace suffer in poverty for many decades.
This is the “charming” Cuba everyone is desperate to see before it changes.
Remember if you go there that what is slipping away are the vestiges of oppression. You’ll feel less sad about losing the charm that way. Read THIS great article for a Cubano’s view on the matter.
Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway drank a lot of Mojitos in Cuba, but reliable sources – including Philip Greene in his tome “To Have and Have Another”, a book that specifically addresses the issue of what Hemingway drank – believe this to be untrue.
Hemingway left Cuba in 1959, a year before those plucky Bacardis fled and set up shop again – the distillery is now in Ricky Martin-land – and their white rum is taking over the world in the way that Castro and his ideology didn’t.
Apart from Halle Berry emerging from the ocean (in Spain masquerading as Cuba) in an orange bikini in THIS SCENE from Die Another Day, to meet Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond being super-creepy in talking about Mojitos and “the view”, the Mojito is surprisingly absent from popular culture.
Except Miami Vice
I’m advised – but won’t bother checking myself – that the Mojito features heavily in the 2006 movie of the same name. I have as much interest in this remake as I did in the Footloose remake. Some art just needs to be left alone, on its pedestal. Respected and revered.
Miami Vice is one of those.
If you missed it, it was about two flawed but dedicated cops trying to tackle the drug barons in Miami in the 1980s. They weren’t undercover but never wore uniforms, just uniformly-awesome clothes, and drove Ferraris and had fancy boats like Stefan (on cops’ pay – hmmm).
It was remarkable for many things:
- It launched the careers of so many actors that I can’t list them here – but go to this link to be amazed
- It had very high production values (and an implausible pet alligator – bonus points if you can name it without Googling – the answer is at the end of the post)
- Everyone managed to keep a straight face when Sheena Easton played Don Johnson’s primary love interest in spite of him never having once caught a morning train
- And the fashion. The extraordinary fashion. Which influenced everyone everywhere.
Including apparently me. Here is a late 1980s photo of me and my brother which I can only assume we intended to serve as the album cover for our upcoming boy band. Perhaps we would have been called “Brows”.
In the final episode, we see Crockett and Tubbs (least sexy combination of surnames ever) farewelling a fine partnership. Ricardo Tubbs was heading back to The Bronx and Sonny Crockett, well he was off to somewhere where the water would be warm, the hair products plentiful and the drinks – in all likelihood Mojitos – would be cold.
But even Miami Vice didn’t give us a Mojito song. There have been a few, terrible attempts – Google Kate Yanai or Alan Ritchson if you have too much time on your hands (actually, don’t) – but I think we can nominate our own.
The 1980s was great for music and fashion. But look, it wasn’t perfect.
We still had the Cold War.
And we had to pretend everyone was straight all the time even though none of us really believed it.
Fortunately we have moved on from a lot of that now and the world, while still being shit in many ways, is mostly better than the 1980s.
But there is a creative casualty that I would like to resurrect from the era.
In 1986, Elton John donned his natty boater and sat in the back of his convertible Rolls Royce (gag), lamenting a love that could never be while handing her the world’s best passport photo.
Nikita was beautiful.
But a Commie.
A soldier on the wrong side of history (and also a woman, but at this stage, I think Elton was still notionally married to a woman so we all went along with it even faced with evidence such as the almost unbearable awkwardness of the slow dance at 3:40).
To my untrained eye, she appeared to also be a barely competent border guard (but later reveals hair that could have made her the third member of “Brows”).
So I’d like to reclaim this song.
Let’s change “Nikita” to “Mojito” and give this cocktail an anthem and give this musical gem a resurrection.
“Oh Mojito is it cold?….”
*Elvis – that’s how cool they were.