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History of the classic Mojito

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1910 | Havana, Cuba

The Mojito has an extraordinarily long and convoluted story, featuring both freebooters and African shamans. The cocktail’s very name has been interpreted by researchers in all sorts of different ways. In Western Africa, “mojo” is a little sack with potions for magic rituals. In Cuba and the Canary Islands, mojo is also a popular hot sauce.

In the 16th century, a legendary pirate named Sir Francis Drake – otherwise known as El Draque, or The Dragon – pillaged Spanish ships in the Caribbean with the Queen’s blessing. Gradually, El Draque’s name also became attached to Sir Francis’ favorite drink, rum with burnt sugar. A short time later, another pirate with the same surname, Richard Drake, concocted a new beverage by adding lime and mint, and christened it the Drauqecito.

When and for what reason the Draquecito turned into the MOJITO remains shrouded in mystery. But in 1910, a drink called the MOJITO Batido appeared at the La Concha bar in Havana. The minty Cuban cocktail’s popularity was further enhanced in turn by the introduction of Prohibition in the United States. After the ban on alcohol, Americans began letting loose en masse in Cuba, and the Mojito became an ideal replacement for the much-beloved mint julep.

The cocktail was further advanced in Cuba thanks to the involvement of the Cantineros de Cuba: a society of bartenders headed by Constantino Ribalaigua, of the legendary bar Floridita. A period – or, more accurately, an exclamation point – in the drink’s Cuban era came from Ernest Hemingway’s famous line: “My mojito in La Bodeguita. My daiquiri in El Floridita.”

In the 1980s, the Mojito had already become a part of bartending manuals around the world, but remained as before a purely tropical exotic and a Cuban specialty until 2002, when yet another Bond movie was released. Halle Berry walks out of the sea, and in the agent’s hand is a highball with that very same cocktail. Pierce Brosnan’s exquisite voice announces “Mojito!” to the camera. Blackout. Thunderous applause. Immediately after the film’s London premiere, the Mojito wakes up a famous and in-demand cocktail in bars around the world.

See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev

Illustration: Mine

Journalists: Sara Davis, Samatha Johnson

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