History Of The Mojito
The earliest references to the Mojito come from Cuban trademark filings in 1915 and 1917. These trademarks are for an allspice liqueur named “Mojito Criollo” by Manuel Gómez. The trademarks do not appear to have been granted as the term mojito was too common and similar to “majito” or “mejito.” Majito is the diminutive form of majo, which in the Cuban dialect refers to an incredibly beautiful person. Mojo is similar and means a charming allure. Criollo is Spanish for creole, and in Cuba, a criollo would be a native-born person with both Spanish and native parents. Mojito Criollo loosely translates to a beautiful/charming racially mixed person.
The first modern mojito recipe comes from the 1931 Cuban cookbook “Cuban Cookery” by Blanche Zacharie de Baralt. In the intro to her cocktails section, she states,
The cocktail is not a native institution of Cuba. Before the Spanish American war  it was considered here an exotic drink and seldom served; but our northern visitors, who have come in larger numbers since then, have realized that our excellent rum and fine fruit juices formed an unequalled combination, the cocktails of Havana have gained a well deserved reputation and their fame encircled the earth.Blanche Zacharie de Baralt
She states that the Naval Officers stationed at Guantánamo Bay were heavy drinkers, and Cuban drinks like the daiquiri were invented there. Most likely, other Cuban cocktails were created there, and the Mojito probably was too. She provides two recipes similar to the modern mojito. The Criollo, a mojito with angostura bitters, and the Cuban Mojo, the standard mojito recipe we see today. I mention these two recipes because Bar la Florida, the most famous bar in Havana then, called the Mojito the “Mojito Criollo.” Although, for non-Spanish speakers, criollo is an awkward word to pronounce, I can easily see it getting dropped and only Mojito remaining.
How Sweet Should A Mojito Be?
As sweet as you like, but historically the Mojito was not a sweet drink. Typically today, 1 oz of syrup is added, and it makes for a sweet citrusy, and minty drink, but the earliest recipes only used 1 tsp of sugar. The reduced sugar makes these older Mojitos more refreshing and bright with a slight tartness. Making them closer to a rickey than a collins. But it’s up to you. The tartness is nice, but a little extra sugar isn’t bad, either.
- 1915 Boletín oficial de la Secretaría de Agricultura, Comercio y Trabajo
- 1917 Boletín oficial de la Oficina Nacional de Invenciones, Información Técnica y Marcas
- 1931 Cuban Cookery – Zacharie De Baralt
- 1934 Bar la Florida – Menéndez