Mojito: Did pirates really invent the delicious cocktail?

Pirates, slaves, or a famous local bar; who really invented the delicious Mojito and how to prepare the authentic Cuban cocktail?

A rum base perfectly blended with a mixture of sugar, lime juice, soda, yerbabuena (spearmint), and some ice is the perfect refreshment to ease the heat and start a party. The traditional mojito has become an iconic cocktail all over the world and has even inspired different flavored versions.

But just as interesting as Mojitos are in its flavors, its origin story seems to be even more intriguing. Common lore tells us this drink was invented by pirates and though the image of pirates enjoying a delicious Mojito on the decks of their ships is absolutely appealing, many have deemed this version as myth. So what’s the real origin of the original Cuban Mojito?


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Origins of the Mojito

A Refreshment Fit for Pirates

The most popular theory is that pirates in the Caribbean invented the iconic mojito. Not only that, the theory claims it was no other than the infamous Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite pirate. Legend has it, Drake landed in Havana, Cuba intending to plunder the city and retrieve the gold, unfortunately for him, it was a failed mission; however, lucky for us, something good came out of it, yes you got it, the Mojito.


After long months overseas, Drake’s crew got dysentery and scurvy, looking for remedies to cure his crew (and himself) he sent a group of healthy pirates to the land to seek some medicine. Natives gave them the ingredients which included, cane aguardiente (spirit), sugar, mint leaves, and limes. The way Drake concocted the beverage didn’t only cure his crew (though now it’s known it was the limes that did so) but also resulted in a delicious refreshment. One Mojito a day keeps scurvy away!

The drink was popularized on the island and eventually got named “El Draque” in honor of Drake.


A Slave Spell

Another theory claims that it was African slaves the ones that came up with the cocktail. According to this theory, slaves that were working on the sugar cane fields used to mix the aguardiente produced with the canes and mix it with sugar to make it a bit sweeter. Given that lemons were quite common in the region, eventually, they added them to the mix.

This theory, unlike Drake’s, mentions why the beverage was named Mojito. The word ‘mojo,’ in their native language, meant “to cast a spell” or “to place a little spell,” this was due to the inebriating effect the drink produced. However, Mojito specialists disagree with this version claiming that the name comes from the Spanish word ‘mojadito,’ meaning “little wet,” or ‘mojo’ which is a Cuban lime-based seasoning.


A Signature Drink

Last but not least, we have the more modern theory of them all, and that is that the drink was simply invented by a famous local bar (with franchises all over the world now) La Bodeguita del Medio. This version isn’t as interesting as the previous ones since the owners argue that their bartenders were simply experimenting and came out with the drink. Now what makes it interesting is that it was no other than the acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway, the one who popularized it in the US, being his ultimate favorite cocktail from La Bodeguita. Eventually, the Mojito became the bar’s signature drink and the rest is history.

Also in the same branding nature of theories, is that the famous rum company Bacardi, founded in the mid 19th century, came up with the idea of the Mojito and branded it as a modern cocktail that could be made at home. Similar to what happened with Margaritas, the idea of being able to create a fancy cocktail drink at home was a huge success.


How to Prepare an Authentic Cuban Mojito?

So, now that you know the story, or better said, the different possible theories around the origins of the Mojito, don’t you want to know how to prepare an authentic one? Here’s how.


1 teaspoon of sugar / 1/2 lime / 3 sprigs of yerbabuena (spearmint) / 1/4 cups of white rum / 1 cups of soda / 1 cup of crushed ice / 1 wedge of lime


How to:

In the glass of your preference, add the teaspoon of sugar, squeeze the juice of a quarter of a lime juice and drop the remaining wedge. Add 2 sprigs of spearmint and with the help of a muddler, mash the ingredients in the bottom of the glass. Add ice and pour the rum and the soda. Mix everything and garnish with a wedge of lime and a spearmint leaf.

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