I love herbs: smelling them, touching them, cooking with them. They look fabulous in a garden and they are so easy to grow. They require very little watering and not much attention; they can grow on rocks as well as on clay terrains (like mine, in Missouri). Some will not survive cold winters though, but if you cover them, they will grow back in spring, healthier than ever. You can grow most herbs also in pots and if in winter you keep them inside, near a well-lit window, they’ll continue growing, and you’ll have fresh herbs all year around. As a matter of fact, last winter I had rosemary, sage and marjoram ‘alive and kicking’ throughout the winter. So, why do you want to have bushes and ornamental plants that are good for nothing in your garden when you can grow wonderful herbs and use them in many different ways in your kitchen? And in your bar, too. :)
Yes, at the bar: this is where our journey into the marvellous world of herbs begins – with a mojito! We all know the mojito was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink.
It’s one of my favorite summer drinks, too. You need mint, quite a lot of mint for a tasty mojito. Not a problem: mint is invasive. Just like gramigna, that Bermuda grass that in the Italian language stays in comparisons with bad habits that are really hard to eradicate. So, plan carefully the ‘mint area’ in your garden, as it’ll spread fast.
After you picked a good bunch of mint leaves and rinsed them, get a Collins glass (a tall cylinder tumbler). Smash the mint springs in the glass with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, using a muddler (or a tablespoon, if you don’t have a muddler). Quantities of sugar, and lime, depend on your sweet/sour tooth. When Italians prepare a mojito, they specify zucchero di canna, cane sugar. However, that brownish sugar is not what Cubans use. Simply because American sugar generally comes from cane, not barbabietole, sugar beets, like most Italian sugar.
When your mint-sugar-lime is well muddled, add ice. Crushed ice – with one those retro ice-crushers with a manual handle – is the best. A blender will transform ice into a crystal-like mass that will water your mojito down too quickly; the big ice cubes from your freezer will create too much surface in your glass, so the rum will not flow smoothly into your glass to blend well with the sugar-mint-lime at the bottom, before flowing back into your mouth, smoothly.
Now fill the glass with rum – white rum – and soda water. You can add a few drops of aged rum (that darker stuff) for extra flavor. If you ran out of soda, sparkling mineral water will work too. Traditionally, the mojito is not a strong cocktail, so you can do about half rum and half soda. However, I usually adjust the level of rum to … my level of stress
On Fridays, it’s likely that the proportion of rum versus soda is quite unbalanced toward the first ingredient!
Add a straw, stir. Decorate with mint springs. I like to use spearmint for decoration because it looks prettier. For the cocktail, instead, I use peppermint, with larger leaves and more intense flavor.
Your mojito is now ready. Sit down, grab the glass, sip, and enjoy!