Wednesday, June 25, 2014

3 Summer Mojitos

I bought my first cocktail shaker from Ikea. It was back during my freshman year of college and I thought I was the bee's knees. It sat on my dorm room dresser for a while and then I probably made three or four cocktails with that thing before getting completely obsessed with mojitos. Mojitos are fizzy so you can't shake them in a cocktail shaker so it just became a decorative piece. I think the Stella's blueberry mojito was the mascot cocktail of my apartment our senior year. But, since college students can't always afford to down two or three $9 mojitos every night, I did my best to remember to buy mint, limes, and tonic water during every Wegmans run for a cheaper homemade alternative.

Traditionally, mojitos are made with mint, sugar, lime, rum, and sparkling water. I always preferred using tonic water just because it was already sweetened. We were an apartment full of self-conscious girls so we would buy diet tonic water, omit the sugar completely, and feel better about our bodies. Feeling happy about your body is important, right? Anyway, to this day, I prefer using tonic water over sparkling water. I like how you can add sweetness and bubbles in one go; two birds, one stone. Plus, you aren't left with any gritty undissolved sugar at the bottom of the glass; three birds, one stone.
I'm sharing three cheeky, yummy, and summery mojito varieties today. I did the tiniest bit of brainstorming, checked what we had in the fridge, and chucked these together. Even without any of my usual meticulous recipe developing, these turned out quite delicious. And after my morning of mixing and sipping all three of these cocktails, I realized that setting up a little make-your-own mojito station would be rather fun for a party.

Hm, might I suggest you set one up for July 4th weekend? I mean, now that it's summer and the weather is scorching, it's only appropriate. Mother nature says, "Mo' heat-o." You say, "Mojito." I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong with me.
Okay, first up let's talk about this strawberry basil mojito.
Ingredients [for one]:
2 oz. chilled white rum
4 to 6 basil leaves
½ cup chilled tonic water
2 strawberries, quartered
strawberry for garnish

Dump your basil and strawberries into the bottom of your serving glass. Use a muddler, if you've got one, or a wooden spoon to mash the berries and bruise the basil. Pour in your rum and tonic water and enjoy. You can certainly adjust the amount of alcohol to your taste. I'm all about strong drinks at clubs and bars because I want my money's worth but when I'm day drinking at home, I prefer a less boozy version. You can also completely omit it if you wanted to make a virgin version.
Crisp, cool, and refreshing, the basil and berry combination definitely makes you think of a summer garden. Maybe that's just me because we've got berries and basil in our garden. The basil is fragrant without being overpowering and the strawberries add a bit of tartness and sweetness. It's a juicy, delicious drink that would be awesome at a picnic or alongside a light lunch served al fresco, of course.
Next up is a coconut and mint mojito. This one will make you think of tropical beaches and clear blue waters and palm trees.
Ingredients [for one]:
1 oz. chilled coconut rum (Malibu!)
4 to 6 mint leaves
1 lime wedge
½ cup chilled tonic water
1 tablespoon toasted coconut
½ teaspoon agave nectar

Start by toasting some coconut - you can use a pan on the stove or a sheet pan in a 350F oven - just long enough to turn the flakes a golden color. Use your finger to rub some agave nectar around the rim of your glass and then press it into the coconut. Add mint leaves in the bottom of your glass and muddle them a little to allow the essential oils to be released. Pour in your coconut rum and lime juice and then top off the drink with tonic water. For a virgin version, substitute the coconut rum with a splash of coconut extract and a splash of coconut milk.
I love the sweetness and crunchy texture that the toasted coconut adds to the drink. The coconut rum is friggin' delicious (it's one of my favorites), the mint is cooling and refreshing, the lime is tart and citrusy, all in all, a perfect drink. And of course, if you really want this to look tropical, you'll pop in a cocktail umbrella. This one's a perfect poolside drink. Even if you don't have a pool, just dip your tootsies in a cool bucket of water and pretend you're sitting in a cabana.
The last cocktail I want to share is a watermelon cilantro mojito. I love that combination. I shared a watermelon & feta salad last year with plenty of chopped cilantro and it was superb.
Ingredients [for one]:
2 oz. chilled clear rum
8 to 10 cilantro leaves
1 lime wedge
½ cup chilled watermelon juice
½ cup chilled tonic water

Add the cilantro leaves to your glass and bruise them up a bit. Add in the rum and lime juice. Pour in the watermelon juice and top off with tonic water. Again, just omit the rum if you're looking for a virgin version. And, if you're not a cilantro fan, you can use mint or basil. Both herbs are delicious with watermelon.
This one's probably the most "Ahh, refreshing!" of the three. The watermelon is so sweet and fresh and the cilantro adds a delicious punch of flavor. I think this one would be a winner at brunch. You could make up a bit batch - minus the tonic - in a big pitcher and call it a day.
Party time! Chug! Chug! Chug!
Cheers!

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