Now that January is at an end, it's time to sum up the results of my mojito-sipping month. The weather was relatively kind to my quest, and if it wasn't quite as sunny as we would have hoped for, the humidity often demanded something long, cold and refreshing. Most of the bartenders were either too polite to turn up their noses at my request, or didn't realise that it's a deeply unfashionable drink.
While it has a very simple recipe, it's by no means a "safe" cocktail to order, as it depends very much on the freshness and quality of the ingredients, the skill of the maker, and a subtle balance of flavours. I haven't attempted the sort of numerical rating that I gave to Martinis, but instead I'll just share some of the highlights and lowlights of the month.
There were no really stunning examples, and that might have something to do with the subordinate role played by the rum. Most of the time they tasted like minty lime and sodas, perhaps with a subtle alcoholic kick, and on a hot day there's nothing wrong with that. Nevertheless, a few places stood out, and Plate (yes, that was the mystery bar), Imbibe, Sandwiches and the Tasting Room all delivered the goods. The key seems to be the quality and treatment of the mint, ensuring that it's not too shredded or bruised, and that it doesn't overpower the lime. There was a variety of sweetening methods uses, from raw crushed sugar through standard table sugar to sugar syrups, and while the raw sugar may have added a subtle richness of flavour, overall I was suprised to find that the type of sweetening didn't make as much of a difference as the amount.
Harem and Vintage both departed from tradition by serving them in a short glass, which seems to miss the point of a mojito. Vintage's one still tasted delicious, but Harem's version had very little ice, just a token mint leaf and a single slice of lime. On the other hand, it came garnished with an orange plastic elephant perched on the side of the glass, and that's got to count for something! Restaurant 88 made it way too sweet, using what seems to have been lime cordial rather than fresh limes, and while Havana used real lime juice, the fact that it was squeezed out of a bottle detracted from the experience somewhat. I guess they've had to streamline their technique to deal with high volumes.
The Southern Cross and Matterhorn both made delicious mojitos, neither too sweet nor too sour, but were let down by filling the glass with shredded mint: it was like drinking pesto! The Lanes and Concrete both suffered from poor quality mint, and after a while there was a distinct, unpleasant vegetal aroma.
Overall, there were some delicious experiences, but I can understand why it's going out of favour. There are a lot of other, better summer drinks out there, so stay tuned for February's drink of the month.