My Round: All mixed up

The cocktail of choice in London's swankiest bars is now a Mojito, but real rum lovers would far rather drink a Daquiri
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Indy Lifestyle Online

My wife, as usual, is right: I need to get out more. For the past few years we've been living in Mojito-land and I just wasn't aware of it. But in the past few weeks I've gone to a good few bars and learnt that the Mojito is London's best-selling cocktail by a good margin. They told me so at the Lab Bar, the Met Bar, La Floridita, even at the outstanding bar in the Tapa Room of Peter Gordon's Providores restaurant (where a cucumber Mojito is their best seller). Maybe vodka is finally on its way out, and rum is on its way in.

My wife, as usual, is right: I need to get out more. For the past few years we've been living in Mojito-land and I just wasn't aware of it. But in the past few weeks I've gone to a good few bars and learnt that the Mojito is London's best-selling cocktail by a good margin. They told me so at the Lab Bar, the Met Bar, La Floridita, even at the outstanding bar in the Tapa Room of Peter Gordon's Providores restaurant (where a cucumber Mojito is their best seller). Maybe vodka is finally on its way out, and rum is on its way in.

That's certainly the view of Igor Beaulieu, manager of the Met Bar. "I try to work less and less with vodka," he says. "It's the only spirit you shouldn't use to make cocktails." Rum, Cognac and whisky are "the spirits to be working with", and he thinks they'll just get "bigger and bigger". But even if that happens, does it justify the increasing popularity of the Mojito? I am profoundly uncertain about it.

As usual, no one knows where or when the Mojito was first made. Cuba is the country of origin, but which bar? There are several claims. More interesting is the nature of the beast, which Dale DeGroff (in his great The Craft of the Cocktail, inexplicably out of print) likens to the Mint Juleps beloved of southern drinkers since the 18th century. DeGroff thinks that Cuban bartenders made the Mojito in imitation of the Julep, using their home-grown spirit in place of Bourbon. He also notes that it would have been a drink for the wealthy until the early 20th century, since ice had to be imported from New England until then.

A Mojito, classically, is a rum sour topped with fizzy water. And there is a word for that kind of drink: they're all members of the Collins family. This is how David Embury refers to the Mojito in the bartender's true bible, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1953, now a collector's item). He calls it a Pedro Collins or Rum Collins, with the name Mojito just a variant. I'd be willing to bet that fewer British drinkers would order them if they were called Pedro Collins.

DeGroff's basic recipe is as follows. Muddle (ie, crush) a small sprig of mint with 25ml of sugar syrup and 20ml freshly squeezed lime juice in the glass half of a shaker. Add 40ml of rum and ice to fill the glass, and shake till your arms ache. Strain into a tall glass that contains plenty of ice (cracked ice, if possible) and top with fizzy water. Garnish with another sprig of mint.

A well-made Mojito is a good enough drink, especially when you use a good aged rum like the ones below. But I don't think people order it because they love it. I think it's because the fizz dilutes the alcohol, making Mojitos painless for those who don't like the taste of spirits. They're also a good sipping drink, as the volume is large and the ice maintains a frosty temperature.

With all due respect, however, they aren't a patch on a good Daiquiri. But a Daiquiri is served short and straight up. It has also been tarnished by association with those revolting, frozen-fruit slushes that go by the name.

If you're not afraid of the taste of good rum, here is the way to make Brian Duell's Lime Daiquiri, the best I've ever had - and indeed, one of the best cocktails I've ever tasted. It's appeared a couple of times in this column, but I make no apology for the repetition. Vigorously shake 50ml of rum, 12.5ml of freshly squeezed lime juice, and 10ml of sugar syrup with loads of ice. Strain into a freezer-chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lime. Sip contentedly, and repeat after me: "This is better than a Mojito."

Top Corks: Three rousing rums

Sailor Jerry (£16.99, Gerry's, 020 773 42053; in Scotland at Peckhams Grocery, 0141 445 4555) A spiced rum, good for mixing. Instant cocktail: 6:1 Jerry:lime cordial, served over ice.

Alnwick Rum (around £20, for stockists, go to www.alnwickrum.com) Aged rums from Guyana and Jamaica, rich, mellow and very well rounded. Good enough to drink neat, or over ice.

Cockspur Old Gold (around £20 per litre, e-mail pauline_cockspur@hotmail.com for stockists) Not easy to find. Big smoky flavours, liquid gold either straight or in cocktails.

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