The mojito and I have a storied personal history. We were first introduced in Santa Barbara, and by its very presentation I was certain that the concoction was to the Blue Agave what the crushed grape margarita was to Left at Albuquerque: a finely polished original. Not so; the Cuban specialty was widely known, but I was just catching on as the mojito made its popular return (it had been out of vogue since the late 1980s).
We became rather close. I introduced the mojito at a party, where it received a chilly reception. Few of my friends are accustomed to drinking rum straight, and though the mojito does an admirable job of masking the alcohol’s kick, while preserving its bite, it is a straightforward blend that takes some getting used to.
Shortly after summer solstice, I felt it was time to call up my old friend and, partly by accident, I stumbled on the perfect way to drink a mojito.
Locate an upstairs bar with a scenic, expansive view of the sea. Drink.
It was pure coincidence that the two bars I chose in my mojito odyssey happened to be oceanfront. Eric Ericsson’s seemed a natural choice; the second level bar is coolly inviting. (I gave Aloha Steakhouse a shot too, but was turned down after the accommodating bartender informed me that they didn’t have the proper “mojito mix” even though fresh sprigs of mint were clearly on display in the fridge. What more could a mojito call for?)
Eric Ericsson’s offered a sprightly take on the cocktail, with a perfectly mashed concoction of mint and a sweet aftertaste of sugar granules (they do sink to the bottom and should be there to greet you during the final sip). The waitress was upfront with me about the bar’s use of syrup, and initially I feared the worst. I’ve heard tell of mint syrup being used in place of sprigs of fresh mint, but this establishment’s use was sparing and not at all in place of garnishment. Although I like to fancy myself a purist (ah, that I had a proper muddler to crush the mint leaves!) I have to say the addition wasn’t unwelcome. The syrup gave the mojito a refreshing, citrus edge, bringing to mind lemonade without beating the impression into the ground.
Someone who had overheard my order recommended another drink to me: Margarita Villa’s 10 Cane Mojito. That night, I ventured out to Spinnaker Drive, upstairs to the charming restaurant and cantina that overlooked dozens of slips and a quiet expanse of harbor.
Made with 10 Cane rum, a fine blend fermented from pressed sugar cane in Trinidad, the Villa’s mojito is a simpler breed that depends only on rum, sugar, soda water and fresh mint leaves. This dreamy island drink was served up in a pint glass, which struck me as a more honest (and refreshing) way to serve than in the typical skinny mojito cocktail tumbler.
I ended my search at Margarita Villa. Once you’ve found an establishment that provides a no-fuss mojito (and a perfect chemical balance of the ingredients), you’re home.