It would be a ruse, though a convenient one, to claim that the mojitos served in various Miami restaurants vary in earth-shattering degrees. They do not. There are, after all, only so many ways you can mix rum, sugar, lime, yerbabuena, ice, and soda water. Then again, for the budding mojitoist, no distinction is too arcane. With this edict in mind, New Times respectfully proffers the following ratings. (Special Consumer Warning: Mojitos will vary depending on the bartender, his mood, and your attitude as a customer.)
* Casa Juancho, 2436 SW Eighth St.
Major points on the freshness scale, especially for the pestle-ground yerbabuena. A bit heavy on the sugar, but a good shot of rum and lime juice helps temper the sweetness. Price: $4.25
* Floridita Bar and Restaurant, 145 E. Flagler St.
Use of brown yerbabuena juice lends the drink a suspicious ginger-alelike hue. Taste, however, is fragrant and tart. Price: $3.00
* Victor's Cafe, 2340 SW 32nd Ave.
Substitution of 7-Up for soda is intriguing, and eliminates the possibility of grainy sugar at the bottom of your drink. Strong minty aftertaste. A little more rum wouldn't hurt. Price: $3.50
*Versailles, 3555 SW Eighth St.
Premixed ingredients. Tastes like a rum-and-lemonade cooler. Added bonus: raw sugar cane garnish can be chewed afterward, for backwoodsy, toothpicklike effect. Price: $3.25
* Yuca, 177 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables
Mint not ground thoroughly. Lime flavoring too subtle. Rum the strongest taste. Not necessarily a good sign. Neither is the cost. Price: $4.65
* Bacardi Imports Executive Dining Room, 2100 Biscayne Blvd.
Major departure here is the use of sweet basil instead of mint or yerbabuena. Interesting, if not entirely successful. Very stiff mix. Price: Friends high enough in the Bacardi hierarchy to secure an invite.
* La Carreta, 3632 SW Eighth St.
Mix used, as well as an overabundance of soda water. Mint flavor weak. Garnish is sickly looking. Price: $3.25
By this time you will no doubt have noticed that mojitos carry a pretty exorbitant price tag, especially in the city's more chichi enclaves. Our advice is to whip up a batch at home, using the recipe below:
1.5 oz. white rum
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 oz. lime juice
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12 yerbabuena leaves (fresh yerbabuena is available at local botanicas, including
La Caridad, at 651 Washington Ave., in Miami Beach; spearmint or sweet basil may be substituted in a pinch)
Ice (preferably crushed)
Place yerbabuena leaves at the bottom of a ten-ounce cocktail glass and crush. Add sugar, lime juice, and rum. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Fill glass with ice. Add seltzer to taste. Garnish, if you must, with sprigs of yerbabuena.
By no means is this the definitive mojito recipe. Indeed, any such claim would be an insult to the cocktail tradition, which demands constant experimentation. If, for instance, you get tired of straight mojitos, try a Cajun Mojito. Just add a dash of Tabasco. How about a Sweet Home Mojito? Replace the rum with a slug of Jack Daniel's. For a Virgin Mojito, use Evian water rather than liquor. To whip up a Hulk Hogan Mojito, just add a shot of invigorating anabolic steroid to the brew. For a Baby Mojito, mix the sugar and lime with half a jar of Gerber creamed carrots. Or, finally, try a Yankee Doodle Mojito: rum, corn syrup, Gatorade, peppermint extract, and Cherry Coke. Decorate with a tiny American flag and serve with Cheez Whiz. Cheers!