Recipe for bourbon mojito

First off, let’s acknowledge the debt we cocktail drinkers owe to the classic mojito. It’s a wonderful, refreshing cocktail, perfect for sipping on the patio or pairing with tacos. The traditional mojito is made with rum, mint, simple syrup and lime, then finished with club soda. The bourbon mojito follows a similar mold, but there are a couple of tweaks.

A quick chat about mint – What kind of mint goes in a mojito?

Traditionally, mojitos are made with, well, mojito mint. It comes to us from Cuba, and was unavailable in North America until 2006, according to The Grower’s Exchange. The flavor is milder and slightly sweeter and the aroma packs less of a menthol punch.  I would personally say that mojito mint lacks the pungent, skunky flavor that sometimes lurk in mints. While I love that quality in a julep or when I’m using mint in the kitchen, I like the mellower vibe in a mojito. It feels fresher against the citrus.

Ditto the bourbon mojito. Use mojito mint if you have it, but if you don’t, sub in any fresh spearmint. The goal is to have only the most flavorful mint for your drink, which means freshly picked, high quality plants. The mint should be very aromatic and, ideally, harvested in the morning when the leaves have the strongest concentration of oils. Look for mint that’s very crisp, with a deep green color and regular growth along the stem. Discard any leaves that are brown or yellow or that show signs of wilting or other damage.

RELATED: What’s the difference between spearmint and peppermint?

Keeping cut mint fresh

If you must buy or harvest your mint in advance of making your drinks, or you have mint leftover, store it in a glass with water. It will stay fresh for several days if you change the water daily. If your environment is very humid, store the glass of mint in the fridge. Otherwise, it can sit on the counter away from direct sunlight.

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How to make a bourbon mojito


Makes one mojito

  • 12-15 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 fresh lime, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
  • 2 ounces of 100 proof bourbon – see below for recommendations
  • 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
  • ginger beer – Reed’s, Bundaberg’s or other strong, spicy ginger beers are ideal

A large cocktail shaker (this is my go-to shaker) and a muddler. If you don’t have a muddler, use the handle of a wooden spoon or the top of a honey dipper.

Lots of ice. You’ll need enough to fill the shaker and enough to fill a standard pint or Collins glass. On serious mojito days, I buy a bag of ice at the store because the cubes are just the right shape and size. Otherwise, I use square cubes that I make myself. Size and shape matter because the ice needs to melt quickly enough in the shaker to lightly dilute the drink but not so quickly (in either glass or shaker) that the drink gets watery.

bourbon mojito

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To craft the mojito

Place most of the mint leaves and half the lime wedges in the empty shaker. Muddle gently but firmly. The goal is to bruise the mint and to make the lime release both juice and oil.

Add the bourbon, simple syrup and the rest of the mint and lime. Muddle lightly.

With the contents muddled, fill the shaker with ice. Put the lid on and shake for 10-20 seconds, until the shaker is frosty.

Fill the glass with ice. Pour the contents of the strainer over the ice. Top the glass with cold ginger beer. Add a lime wedge and a spring of mint.

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Bourbon mojito notes

Use any bourbon you enjoy the taste of but save the really good stuff for sipping or for an Old-Fashioned. My favorite bourbon for mojitos is Old Forester 100 proof. It’s study enough to stand up to the citrus, mint, ginger and sweetness and the dilution mellows it nicely. In general, this drink needs a strong, oaky bourbon that doesn’t run sweet.

You can use either ginger ale or ginger beer, but the drink is best when the ginger fizz is very spicy and not very sweet. In a pinch, or if you don’t care for ginger, you can use club soda or seltzer water.

I went back and forth about including the simple syrup. There is the risk of ending up with a drink that’s too sweet, depending on how tart the limes are and what kind of ginger beer/ale you use. On the other hand, if your limes are very juicy and tart, the drink can end up unbalanced. It’s ok to skip the syrup at first. The beauty of simple syrup is that it readily mixes into a drink, so you can add it to your finished drink if you wish. Likewise, don’t feel obligated to start with the entire 1/2 ounce.

If you skip the ginger beer entirely, then I would suggest bumping the simple syrup to an ounce.

This is really important – this is YOUR drink. Feel free to experiment with the amount of mint or lime. Try a few ginger options and find one you like. You can even tweak the amount of bourbon to suit your preference, though it really does need at least 1.5 ounces to hold up to the other flavors.

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