Cocktail Hour: The Original Mojito

Illustration by Zachariah Durr.

It was my birthday last weekend, January 15th to be exact, which also happens to be the day before prohibition went into effect in 1920.  So I decided to throw a “Drink Like Prohibition Starts Tomorrow” party.

I selected pre-prohibition cocktail recipes for gin, rum, whiskey, applejack, absinthe, champagne and beer.  I provided a table full of mixers, tools, garnishes–everything my guests would need to shake up their own classic cocktails.

Most of the recipes I selected came from Tom Bolluck’s 1917 book The Ideal Bartender.  But two of the more interesting  recipes I pulled from Sloppy Joe’s Bar Guide.  Published in 1932 (originally 1931), the book features recipes from Sloppy Joe’s, a bar located in Havana, Cuba that was freqeunted by the likes of Clark Gable and Ernest Hemmingway.  I first learned about this book while researching the origins of the Mojito; the first printed recipe for a Mojito appears in this book.

An interesting note, this drink appears in the section labeled “Bacardi Drinks.”  Barcardi was preferred for this drink because it was a filtered rum: it had a light flavor and was clear.

From Sloppy Joe’s Bar Reprint Season 1932-1933 by Jose Abeal and Ross Bolton

I served this drink in a rocks glass; should you want to make a full 8 oz. drink, I recommend doubling these proportions.

1 tsp sugar or simple syrup
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1.5 ounces rum
Seltzer Water
Fresh Mint
Shell of Lemon

Fill a glass with ice.  Add sugar, and lemon juice.  Add rum, and fill glass with seltzer water.  Add 4-6 leaves of fresh mint.  Stir cocktail until condenesation appears on the outside of the glass.  Add the lemon shell and serve.


This drink was a real standout for me over the evening: I felt like it was a revelation in drinking and a vast improvement over contemporary Mojitos. The flavor is light, refreshing, and just the right amount of sweet.  It reminded me of the fresh squeezed lemonade I used to get at the county fair–but boozier.

However, I read through the modern introduction to Sloppy Joe’s after the party, and found this:

“Note that in this book any mention of lemon, may actually be lime.  This mess up is proven in the bilingual Bar La Florida Cocktails Guide that translates lime incorrectly from Spanish.”

So in retrospect the drink probably should have been made with lime–but the lemon juice was delicious.

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  1. Pingback: National Mojito Day

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