Heirs and cases: The new Mojito

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

02 November 2016

The Mojito might not be dead exactly, but nor is it ruling lists quite as imperiously as it once did. Laura Foster looks at the five likeliest contenders who might succeed to its mint 'n' lime flavoured throne

Remember the days when Mojitos were everywhere, and you'd cry a little inside when one person would come up to the bar on a Friday night and order 10 in a single round? Well, love its GP or hate its ubiquity, what's undeniably true is that no cocktail has managed to take its crown since then.

What was it that made the Mojito so special? 'First, it’s a delicious drink. It's refreshing but it's also sweet; the liquor's got a little character but isn't overpowering – and if you don’t beat the hell out of the mint, it can be vibrant and lively,' says Bramble's Jon Hughes.

Jim Wrigley from Bourne & Hollingsworth Group agrees: 'A large part of the popularity of the Mojito was accessibility, coupled with a move from vodka, which had been prevalent for the 1990s and early noughties. The Mojito was easy, exotic, often available in a variety of fruit flavours, and it came with history.'

As we all know, trends move on. The Mojito's crown has slipped, but like a Labour party leadership contest, it could be argued that no viable alternative has – as of yet – stepped up to take the mantle. So we asked five bartenders to place their bets on which drink would triumph in such a contest.

Championed by: Jim Wrigley, Bourne & Hollingsworth Group

The case for: 'Knowing about the Mojito was once a rite of passage, a way to separate oneself from the casual drinking herd. That also can be said of the Negroni. No longer the go-to cocktail of the bartender or Italians, the gradual education of the worldwide drinking palate has led to people appreciating drier, boozier, more complex drinks.

'Almost any bar can make one, as the ingredients are universal. Yet despite the simplicity of production, each ingredient packs a smorgasbord of botanicals, which when combined elevate the drink to far greater than the sum of its parts.

'It's also infinitely variable – from changing the gin or vermouth through to switching the base spirit altogether, through to the newer "molecular" serves such as Negroni ice cream and deconstructed jellies, it has spawned numerous offspring, all of which speak to the purity of the original.'

How popular is it already? 'The incubation in places like New York, London, Paris and many more has already happened. I believe Waitrose sell a reasonable amount of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Now it's spreading to provincial towns.

'It'll never quite reach the universal popularity of the Mojito, due to US and UK children’s lack of exposure to bitter flavours, but as sugar for sweetness' sake becomes more of a pariah in society, we should be glugging it back for some time.’

How do you drink yours? 'Equal parts with a stronger gin such as Junipero or Plymouth Navy Strength is perfect. Our house is the ever-giving staple of equal parts, with the punchy and affordable Beefeater. I like everything very cold before the drink is made, and to – somewhat controversially – build and stir in a mixing glass, before straining over fresh ice in a frozen glass. I always love the aroma of a discarded orange twist as well as the classic orange slice.'

Aperol Spritz
Championed by: Nicolo Carraro, Pollen Street Social

The case for: 'The Aperol Spritz is taking over a lot. The colour is very catchy; it makes people ask what that orange drink is. It's very refreshing and has a great amount of booze in it, so it's got everything it needs, just like the Mojito.

'It's got sweetness, sourness and bitterness, which makes you thirsty, so you want another one.

'I'm from Padua, the home of the drink. There the Spritz is €2.50, that’s why it's so popular. It's what young and old people drink in Italy. When I taste it, it brings me back to my country.'

How popular is it already? 'I think it's getting there, but I don’t think it's going to go as crazy as the Mojito. I don't think anything will take over from the Mojito, because cocktail culture has changed completely. Now, knowledge of drinks is so much better. There's so many more drinks that people can order in bars.

In Pollen Street Social we're making five or six Aperol Spritzes a night. We've got a menu with 20 original drinks, and people are mostly ordering those, so
when people are still ordering that amount of Aperol Spritz, it definitely means something.'

How do you drink yours? 'The way we do it in Italy is to have equal parts Aperol and prosecco with a dash of soda, that way it is pretty strong and sweet. I prefer 40ml of Aperol, 50ml prosecco and a dash of soda.

In Padua, where again, the drink originates, the right way to serve an Aperol Spritz is with an olive on a skewer as well as a slice of orange. That way is super nice.'

Old Fashioned
Championed by: Jon Hughes, Bramble Bar, Edinburgh

The case for: 'I think the Old Fashioned is creeping into the Mojito's territory as people’s no-look choice. Partly that’s a reaction against what people think the Mojito is about – it’s light, it's refreshing but it can also be seen as frivolous. Those customers who are defaulting to an Old Fashioned want a drink that’s not quite pure liquor but that also acts as shorthand to say "I’m a sophisticated, educated drinker."

'I also don’t think we can underestimate the attraction for men of being able to order a drink that they perceive to be more masculine – it's something they can order and not have to worry about how they think people will view them for drinking something pink and straight-up.'

How popular is it already? 'For a certain crowd, the Old Fashioned is bedded in already. It's an order we’ve heard more and more over the past three years, but I wonder if there is a point at which that upward curve levels out.'

How do you drink yours? 'With three simple ingredients, the Old Fashioned is a much harder drink to screw up than the Mojito. That's not to say it’s impossible, but so long as your spirit’s good quality, you should be fine.

'I'm partial to using a high-rye bourbon – Old Forester or Four Roses bring that fun spice note that works surprisingly well against those vanilla flavours from virgin American oak – but I tend to think there's not a lot of point going too far towards the pricey end of the scale. A lot of the attraction of higher-end whisky comes from subtle nuance, and you’ll tend to lose that when you’re loading in bitters and sugar then chilling it down.'

Championed by: Nick Wright, Suffolk Arms, New York

The case for: 'There are two types of people in this world. Those who love Daiquiris, and liars. Bartenders love to drink Daiquiris, and they love to make them. It goes to show how simplicity works in a drink.

'The Daiquiri essentially has the same qualities as a Mojito does. It's one of those cocktails you can order in a hurry and still get one executed for you very quickly, you can pick what rum you want in it and have it served either straight up, on the rocks or frozen, and it’ll still be great.'

How popular is it already? 'It has already proved popular around the world, but I have a feeling it will become more popular as more bartenders show it off. I already make more Daiquiris than I do Mojitos, so its influence is catching on.'

How do you drink yours? 'The team over at BlackTail [the new opening from Dead Rabbit's Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon] are making some of the best-tasting Daiquiris I've ever had by really going into their rum blends.* Using a rum blend is definitely trending. The creation of Blacktail's was trial and error.

'We use ours to get a well-rounded balance of flavour, combining Bacardi heritage, which is clean and crisp, Cana Brava three year, which provides the backbone, there’s some Babancourt White for a little earthy funk and lastly we use Banks Island 5 Blend. Altogether we feel like this is a representation of Cuban rum from back in the early 1900s.’

*Jesse Vida, bar manager of BlackTail, revealed: 'Between Jack McGarry, Jillian Vose and myself we tasted about 30 or 40 variations of white rum blends and Daiquiri specs until we found something we all agreed on. We use ours to get a well-rounded balance of flavour, combining Bacardí heritage, which is clean and crisp, Cana Brava three year, which provides the backbone, there’s some Babancourt White for a little earthy funk, and lastly we use Banks 5 Spice. Altogether we feel like this is a representation of a Cuban rum from back in the early 1900s.’

Clover Club
Championed by: Dee Davies, Red Light, Bristol

The case for: 'With the incredible love for gin at the moment it seems fitting that it would be a gin drink which knocks the Mojito off the top spot. Combine that with a buzz ingredient like raspberries in the recipe and it practically sells itself.'

'It's simple and well-balanced with a fantastic name and a beautiful appearance – it ticks all the boxes. I think it’s the kind of drink which, having tried it once, you're hooked.

How popular is it already? 'The Clover Club is starting to catch on. It gets ordered a hell of a lot here – with the exception of the Old Fashioned it’s our highest selling non-menu drink. I’m not sure how they became so popular in Bristol, I assume one bartender started suggesting it and it spread like that. Bristol is quite a small and gossipy city, so it’s pretty easy for news to travel fast.

'The reason I picked the Clover Club over the Old Fashioned is how much easier it is to make without royally messing it up!'

How do you drink yours? 'I keep it nice and simple with 50ml gin, 20ml raspberry syrup, 20ml lemon and 15ml egg white. I always use homemade raspberry syrup, as I find it’s much better quality, much juicier and fresher than shop bought. I actually did a taste test of commercial raspberry syrups and none of them actually tasted of raspberry. As for the gin, I try and use a classic London dry like Plymouth or Tanqueray.'

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