After having the pleasure of trying my hand at growing and using a few different cultivars, my sweet tooth ultimately tipped the scales in favor of chocolate mint. This species is readily available at nurseries, grocery stores, and other large home improvement convenience stores. It is a strong grower, and in my humble opinion, the best of the frequently available mint varieties to make mojitos with.
Chocolate mint is a peppermint that is a cross between watermint and spearmint (mentha x piperita). It has a USDA hardiness rating of 5 – 9. It has light purple flowers that form as a thick spike towards the tops of branches. Like almost all mint, it has a square stem and opposite leaves. It can be distinguished from wild mint by both the flower location, wild has a tendency to cluster around the stem near leaf nodules, and its dark reddish and purple green hues.
Growing chocolate mint is so easy it is probably too easy. Without careful vigilance, this particular species could overrun a garden or yard. Despite its sterility it sends out runners both above ground and below. Fortunately, it grows well in a pot too which can be a way to mitigate its tendencies to propagate beyond appropriate boundaries and make welcome porch company.
Though it has a number of confectionary uses, and is rich in some important vitamins, chocolate mint infused rum and chocolate mint simple syrup can either be used to strip a mojito of the need to transport fresh leaves and a pestle and mortar, or as the fundamental ingredients alongside beautifully colored, fresh salad and other traditional garnishes as a party stopper for hummingbirds and fans of this Cuban classic. On to the important stuff!
The Rum Infusion
The rum infusion can be presented in an aesthetic fashion by using full sprigs as opposed to harvested individual leaves. Submerge two to three sprigs in water for 10 to 15 minutes to help drown insects, rinse them off in a colander, and then stuff them in a bottle of your preferred clear rum. Be sure to take your frustrations and constrained aggressions out on the bottle and shake it vigorously once daily for about two weeks. Then just shake whenever you get the time, or need the therapy, until the mint has had a chance to finish infusing in the rum, about another week. Be sure to store your rum in the freezer prior to serving and leave it there throughout. Not only will leaving rum in use in the freezer assist in keeping the rum cool, but the icicles that form on the tips of the exposed-from-rum-leaves can be agitated into a drink much in the same way one splinters ice into a martini.
The simple syrup recipe is very easy and something I have lifted from the Joy of Cooking. It consists of 3 ingredients all in equal parts. One cup of water, one cup of sugar, and one cup of mint. Combine all ingredients and slowly stir them while bringing the water to a boil. Let it simmer for approximately 1 minute before removing from heat and allowing mint leaves to steep for about a half an hour. Then, place a glass jar in your sink and hold a strainer directly over it. Be sure to poor off the simple syrup very slowly and cautiously. If you poor too fast the leaves will catch in the bottom of the strainer and splatter the syrup just about everywhere. Because the end result is sticky, it is also worth a quick wipe down before capping the jar and putting it in the refrigerator.
Ingredients for Simple Syrup
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of washed mint leaves
Bring to a boil, let simmer for a minute, remove from the heat, let steep for thirty minutes.
When it is finally time to demonstrate your mixologist dominance, grab the rum, syrup, and a 2 litre of Seven Up for easy transport of the most basic necessary ingredients. Fill glasses with ice and go gentle on your guests with less than a quarter of the vessel taken up by rum and a quarter of that amount taken up by syrup. Fill the rest with Seven Up. The agitation of the mint within the rum bottle is meant to compensate for on the spot muddling and these ingredients alone will get you a long way toward a stripped down, garnish naked mojito.
If, on the other hand, brand name sodas are not up to the level of taste you have in mind, you just love the presentation of a full forest in your drink, and have less nefarious goals with your alcohol consumption, then consider a more freshly muddled concoction. Litter the bottom of your glass with a small handful of washed (they did come from your garden) leaves. Dropping ice in next is often sufficient for a gentle muddling of the mint, especially if given a quick shake or stir. Next, fill about a quarter of your glass with the infused rum, and about an eighth of it with simple syrup. Whatever the remaining fraction is can be filled with just about anything with carbonation, though soda water is traditional. Because this will be a much more minty drink than the naked mojito, I would consider adding a solid squeeze of lime juice and just a little bit of lemon juice too.
Giving your drink a mix after combining all of the ingredients not only brings the vegetation off the bottom of the glass but blends the flavors more evenly. To garnish, slice a lemon and lime lengthwise, from where it connected to its branch and what is leftover from the flower that produced it, first. Then run a quick slice down the placenta or middle of your fruit to facilitate adhesion to the rim of your glass. Then slice across the width of each lengthwise cut of fruit into as thin or thick of slices as your artistic license allows and discard the tops and bottoms. (For a much more visual demonstration, this YouTube video is helpful). Place filleted fruit on the rim of your glass, perhaps in alternating colors, and plant a small sprig of chocolate mint in the top of your ice mulch. Then, act like it was easy.
Adding the same simple syrup to a cup of hot chocolate is really tasty too. So is adding a very small amount of the rum! I’d probably leave all the vegetation out though.
Sandy Bottoms and enjoy the purple flowers!