By Robin Marie Horn
My friend Lynn is the queen of entertaining. Not only is she gracious and charming, she’s a natural planner, organizing and synthesizing details for all manner of theme parties in a way that seems effortless. She is ever calm, never rushed. When attending to last minute preparations as early guests arrive, she engages the guests as she goes about her work, inviting comment on food and drink, or offering self-guided tours of the garden.
So leave it to Lynn to know the perfect drinks to serve to her husband’s college friend and his wife, even though she hadn’t met them yet. Not knowing whether they’d prefer refreshment of the alcoholic or nonalcoholic variety, she muddled up mint from her yard, lime, and local in-season strawberries, making a mixture that could go either way. This mojito-nojito strategy could also work well at parties with kids in attendance.
Mojitos hail from Cuba. They’re classified as highball cocktails, which means they contain more mixer than alcohol. As such, they’re served in a tall (highball) glass. However, Lynn suggests a shorter, wider glass for muddling. Muddling is the crushing of cocktail ingredients to release their essential oils and/or juices. For this you need a muddler, any one of a number of pestle-like gadgets, from high tech stainless and silicon to simple wood.
This recipe is for making one drink at a time. To make up a pitcher of mixer, Lynn crushes up a few limes with mint leaves, then adds some Odwalla Summertime Limeade to save muddling time and energy. (You can use any kind of limeade, including frozen reconstituted.) She also might infuse a simple syrup with a handful of mint leaves to reduce the number of mint leaves to be muddled. If you’re making large quantities, serve the mixer chilled, along with mix-your-own rum, club soda, and ginger ale, and a bucket of ice.
If you have simple syrup on hand, you can use about 2 tbsp to replace the sugar in my recipe. Add it with the rum and club soda. I’m too lazy today to make the syrup, so I’m muddling with some superfine sugar.
Enjoy your Memorial Day. Cheers!
Strawberry Mojitos or Nojitos
4-5 mint leaves
2 – 3 strawberries
1 tbsp. superfine sugar
1 ½ oz light rum (mojito)
Club soda (mojito)
Ginger ale (nojito)
Lime and/or mint for garnish (optional)
For Mojito: Slice half-lime into two wedges. Squeeze into a wide, flat-bottomed glass. Add sugar. Use muddler to squish the limes. Be sure to bruise lime skin to squeeze out the essential oils. Add mint leaves and muddle more. Pour this into glass. Cut strawberries into bite-sized pieces, and muddle more gently, releasing their juice. Add to glass. Add rum to glass. Add ice. Pour in club soda and stir to blend. Garnish with lime wedge or mint leaf.
For alcohol-free Nojito: Omit sugar, replace rum and club soda with ginger ale.
Robin Horn is a Felton resident and prolific food writer and photographer. In addition to reading, writing, cooking, travel, and gardening, her favorite things include nature, art, and community.
Featured photo: Strawberry Mojito by Kim Daniels