Cocktail time. A class on how to make a Mojito was one of the highlights of the Taste of Melbourne festival. Out of all the events we went to, the cocktail making lessons were the ones that seemed to excite festivalgoers the most. Long lines, packed sessions, and lots of locals taking their cocktail educations very seriously.
We did a group Daiquiri-making session first. Fast-paced, fun, and 100% hands-on, each participant worked at a bench with their cocktail equipment (muddler, stirrer, shaker etc), spirits, and ingredients before them, taking direction from an instructor on the stage while staff roamed the room ensuring we all kept up. After, participants roamed the Royal Exhibition Building sipping their cocktails in super-size plastic glasses.
The Daiquiri was invented in 1898 by an American engineer working in Cuba, called Jennings Cox, who took some fresh limes from a tree, mixed the juice with sugar to tone down the sourness, added Bacardi and shook it by hand over some ice. He called it a Daiquiri after the town of the same name where he was living in Cuba. The original recipe remains the same: 60 ml Bacardi Superior, 30ml freshly squeezed lime juice, and 2 teaspoons of castor sugar. Only difference is that these days it’s shaken vigorously in a cocktail shaker and strained before serving.
If you missed out on a class, you could get a private one-on-one demo at the Sensology bar, and we did that too, with brand ambassador Martin Newell – and we got a history lesson in the process. The Mojito it seems, whose origins date back to the 15th century, was once called a ‘Draque’, and its base was a throat-burning, distilled sugar cane spirit that was used to ward off sickness. It wasn’t after the late 19th century when the more palatable Bacardi, the world’s first aged white rum, was created, that the Mojito – meaning ‘little soul’ – was invented in the early 20th century.
Making Mojitos wasn’t new to us. In fact, it was on our second trip overseas to Cuba, way back in the ’90s, that we had our first thirst-quenching mint-filled Mojito in Havana’s sultry heat. We became hooked on the things, sipping several of them every afternoon after a sweaty day strolling around the city taking photos. In those days, they were $1 each! Back in Sydney, with our duty free Cuban rums, I’d often make Mojitos when we had friends over for drinks on a summer’s evening on our balcony overlooking the harbour.
The Mojito we learned to make from the Sensology bartender was very close to the Mojito of my memory of Cuba, a very different drink to the Mojitos often served at bars that can be more akin to a Caipirinha. The only difference was in Cuba they used more lime chunks and a lot more mint, cramming the glass with bunches of leaves so that they appeared to grow from the glass. Mint and lime aside (I recommend adding more of each), it’s the most authentic recipe I’ve ever tasted outside of Cuba:
45ml Bacardi Superior
4 lime chunks
8-12 mint leaves
2.5 teaspoons of castor sugar
45 ml soda water
Delicately muddle the limes into the castor sugar so as not to release any bitterness from the skin and rind.
‘Slap’ the mint loudly between your two hands to ‘wake it up’ to release the aroma, then slip it into the glass.
Half fill the glass with ice, add the Bacardi Superior, and stir.
Add a little more ice if you like, then top with soda water and stir gently to finish.
Garnish with extra mint.