Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Drink of the month: mojito

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Last year's New Year's dissolution turned into quite a mission, and it wasn't until late December that I managed to have a drink at every bar in central Wellington. That left me wondering what to do this year: a drink in every bar in Greater Welllington? A coffee in every café? Something that's actually good for me?

Surely you jest. In the end I decided not to decide, or to decide upon a much looser task. Each month I shall choose a "drink of the month", and while not attempting some sort of ridiculously obsessive quest to drink one everywhere, I will sample enough establishments to get a representative cross-section of the drinking landscape. Each month's drink should be seasonally appropriate (e.g. a Mai Tai in summer, port in winter, Champagne in December), and while many of them will be cocktails, that won't always be the case. Some of them may even be non-alcoholic (tea?), but the key will be to choose a drink that offers some variety or requires some skill to make.

No Mo Mojito!I'll kick off the year with the mojito. What?! Isn't that a bit hackneyed? Yes, and that's precisely the point: now that everyone and their dog can make a mojito, its ubiquity should make for an interesting range of results. While clichéd beyond boredom, it's still a damned good summer drink, and I'm determined that we will get a summer in January (unlike last month, which was more suited to mulled wine).

The Guardian has declared war on it ("the mojito has become the cocktail of choice for the noisy and notably undiscerning crowds of revellers who stream out of offices and off trains for a Big Night and will probably be found at midnight blundering about the streets, either shouting wahey and trying to pull a policeman or hysterically dialling the numbers of exes stored on their mobiles"). The "vodka professor" says that it's "one of the world's great drinks, but right now, bartenders wish it wasn't - they're sick to death of making them". Most damningly, the Dominion Post declared it "the drink of 2006". So, I'd better do a mojito round-up before it's too late.

But before we declare "no mo' mojito", I'd like your recommendations for where to get the best and worst in Wellington. Havana's an obvious goodie, I had an appalling one at Go Go (tonic?!), and anywhere with an outdoor area (St Johns, Southern Cross) should be worth a try, since a mojito's at least as much about drinking in the sun as it is about rum, lime and mint. Share your mojito raves and horror stories, and I'll try to fit them into January's mojito mosh.


At 10:27 pm, January 04, 2007, Blogger stephen said...

Years ago I was introduced to the mojito at Salt in Island Bay. I loved it. No doubt this is no longer the place to go, whether for mojitos or other things, but it was an important part of 1999 for me...d

At 2:35 am, January 05, 2007, Blogger Jules said...

Monsoon Poon used to do a mean one (when I was working there at least)! Although for the record it hasn't been hot enought to even contemplate drinking one yet!

At 11:26 am, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The very best mojito I ever had was at a below ground bar in Soho in London so I guess the outdoor situation is not always required - they also served amazing cocktails with pomegranate seeds and other more exotic fruits ... maybe a bit far for you to travel to taste that one in the next month.

However the latest and greatest I have had in Wellington was at Logan Brown - again not an outdoor venue but still an excellent mojito.

At 1:29 pm, January 05, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Stephen: I don't think Salt's still around, but thanks for the reminer that the mojito wasn't unknown before 2006, as the DomPost seems to believe.

Jules: I must add Monsoon Poon to the list.

Anon: that underground bar wouldn't have been Akbar perchance, underneath Red Square? That was one of my favourite bars in London, and it's amazing that the idea of using Asian ingredients (tamarind, jasmine tea, pomegranate, lemongrass-infused vodka) took so long to catch on over here. Good Luck doeas a bit of that, but Vintage is the closest in style.

I agree that the "drinking in the sun" factor is not essential, but it's certainly a natural fit with the refreshing lime and mint flavours and its tropical origins.

At 1:46 pm, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No longer anonymous - yes it was Akbar and I spent many a happy hour there drinking my favourite cocktail 'Agra' a refreshing blend of Bombay Sapphire Gin, lemon and lime juices, fresh Pomegranate and fresh mint charged with ginger beer - it always felt such a feminine way to consume alcohol. There's a challenge for you Tom does anyone in Wellington serve a cocktail with that combination?

At 2:14 pm, January 05, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Aha, I must be in touch with my feminine side, because I used to drink the Agra as well! At one stage we stole a copy of the cocktail list and brought it home to give to our friend Matty, who was working at Cell back then. I don't think it made it onto any local cocktail lists, though.

I'm pretty sure you can get fresh pomegranates here (at MW Fresh), but I don't recall seeing it as an ingredient on any cocktail lists. Vintage could be a possibility (they do interesting things with tamarind and wasabi), but you could always try walking into Matterhorn or Motel with a pomegranate and asking the friendly bar staff to whip you up a cocktail or two with it!

At 3:09 pm, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah-h-h the delectable Matty (also ex Establishment) his Appletini was a work of art and Hershey kisses in his chocolate martini yum ... but I digress it's mojito month and time to taste the best and worst that Wellington can offer - in the words of the notoriously-bibulous, and Mojito loving Hemingway "hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age" so I guess the longer I hesitate in risking the tasting the more age I admit to.

At 9:17 pm, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always found them far too sweet at Matterhorn....

At 9:54 pm, January 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i must practice my pronunciation... mighty mighty bar tender didn't understand me.

so i got a moscow mule... :-) mmmm

p.s. coffee and tea are not mutually exclusive

At 1:59 pm, January 06, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Marc: I agree about Matterhorn. Perhaps they were getting sloppy, or they've decided that mojito-drinkers are "notably undiscerning crowds" with sweet teeth. Hemongway reportedly had his without sugar, which would presumably call for less lime. My pet hate with mojitos is when they're so full of shredded mint that it's like drinking pesto.

Brenda: the Dom today was instructing us to pronounce it "maw-hee-toe", which doesn't seem quite right to me. Wikipedia puts the stress on the first syllable, which sounds odd to me too. I've always pronounced it "mo-hee'-toe", with the initial o almost unvoiced, but perhaps someone with an understanding of Cuban Spanish (the guys at Havana?) would know for sure.

Perhaps a Moscow Mule would be a better bet, anyway :-)

At 4:47 pm, January 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's definitely "moHIto", with the stress on the penultimate syllable (because the word ends in a vowel, s, or n, for those of a linguistic bent).

The first o should be about half as long as the second, and almost like the sound in "mop". The last should be more of an O sound.

At 9:05 pm, January 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mohito mahoto - let's work the whole thing out - la la la ...liked it better with Peter Skellern...when do we get to the drinking? No surprise but I quite liked the mojitos that I have had at Motel....


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