Friday, June 18, 2010

Tale of the Virgin Mojito by Cleo Coyle

I'm a cheap drunk, meaning very little coin at the bar will get me loopy.

I'm sure this isn't much of a revelation to anyone aware of my partiality for the most classically sobering of beverages (i.e. coffee, which I normally take via an IV drip beside my writing desk).

My husband is the same way when it comes to alcohol. We enjoy a nice, cold beer on the weekend; a glass of vino with dinner every now and again. For the most part, however, cocktails are a special occasion thing and not part of our daily routine.

That's mostly why I came late to the mojito. The drink, which is basically a Cuban mint julep, has been trendy for some time now, but I only got around to trying one about two years ago. Well, let me tell was love at first sip!

I sampled the mojito a few more times, even began to make them at home. But, it seemed to me, a pattern was emerging. A short time after I drank my little Cuban friend, I started feeling annoyed, antsy, even argumentative. Was I imagining it? Hmmm....

I couldn't help thinking of one of our rescued stray cats. We took in Mr. Fellows when he was a very tiny kitten. He loves us. We love him. And he's about the most pleasant, even-tempered, genuinely happy feline in our house. BUT...get a little catnip into this puss and he starts to growl and proceeds to pick fights with every furball who passes his paws.

So I'm thinking maybe there's something to my pattern, too. I mean, beer and wine don't have a negative impact on my mood. So I tried my rum mojito one more time and decided I was not imagining it. Sad but true, too much white rum sends me to the Dark Side.

This is one reason my "Virgin Mojito" was born. The other reason is my realization that the refreshing experience of sweetened lime and mint over ice was the real attraction for me all along.

Do I miss the rum buzz? Not really. I mean, I could try switching the alcohol to bourbon, essentially making the drink a mint julep. Maybe next time I'm at a party or in a bar I'll give it a test. I'm not really that concerned. At heart, I'm a relentlessly sober sort of person anyway, more workaholic than alcoholic. Which isn't to say I wouldn't consider a trip to the Dark Side again...if tempted.

Until then, my quickie Virgin Mojito recipe will have to do. It's one I especially enjoy during New York's long, sticky summers.

Finally, I still can't help wondering if the rum thing is all in my mind. Do any of you have a type of alcohol that sends you to the Dark Side?

Cleo Coyle's
Virgin Mojito

Servings: 1


10-20 fresh spearmint leaves
1 wedge of fresh lime
2 or 3 ice cubes
ginger ale
1 thin slice of fresh lime


"Muddling" the mint is the only real technique to get right here. To "muddle" something for a cocktail means to crush it in the glass with a utensil. Bartenders have a device called a muddle, but the prongs of a fork will do the job just as well.

Step 1 - Place your mint leaves in the bottom of your glass and squeeze the juice from you lime wedge onto the mint. 

Step 2 - Use the prongs of a fork to muddle the dampened mint. (You are crushing the mint to release its essential oils.)

Step 3 - Drop the spent lime wedge into the glass and toss a few whole ice cubes on top of it all. (Note: A classic mojito uses crushed ice, but I like the whole cubes, which serve as a kind of strainer, keeping the mass of crushed spearmint leaves away from the rim of the glass so you can sip the drink without most of the leaves getting in your way.)

Step 4 - Fill the glass with ginger ale, place the slice of lime on the rim and...

Drink with Joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
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  1. Hey, if you are going to pass up the chance to dance on tabletops, give this tip a try next time... same recipe (well, maybe a half shot of rum, but if not.... sigh)

    Same recipe, but muddle a strawberry in the bottom before adding the liquid. Adds a nice little swirl of color and an extra little taste.

    Or, one of the benefits of being your own bartender, try adding just a TBS of the rum. It does have a distinctive taste, that unless you are 12 stepping out that night, will be missed in a mojito. Just that small amount will keep the taste.

    Interesting that you imply bourbon doesn't give you the same buzz as rum. Rum is a sugar based alcohol, so you absorb sugar in your system faster than a grain (in bourbon's case, corn mash) based booze. So, when you are "forced" to have a cocktail, order a whiskey sour, and avoid the sweet drinks.

    Gotta love a broad that can handle her whiskey!

  2. This sounds wonderful, Cleo! And sometimes I've got writing to do at night but I want to *feel* like I'm having a cocktail...and this would be perfect!

    I do like bourbon, but sometimes it doesn't like me back... :) Oh, and Tequila is the same way for me.

  3. Reply to...

    @ A Year on the Grill - Dave, thank you, thank you for your good advice! Love the idea of muddling strawberry into the drink and will be trying it this weekend. I also like your solution of using just a very small amount of rum. OR the whiskey alternative. Yes, whiskey and I get along just fine. I still (fondly) remember the night my poetry professor poured shot after shot of Dewar's for me and a few other students -- no, we were not looking for inspiration in a bottle. We were celebrating the completion of a class project. Such were my days of blended malt and roses. :)

    Cheers and thanks again,
    ~ Cleo

  4. Reply to...

    @Elizabeth – Yes, I think you've nailed the rationale behind this baby. It's the perfect drink to feel like you're drinking when you don't want to drink. Evening scribblers do indeed have the unique problem of wanting to relax but needing to stay mentally sharp to get the work done. For me, this drink is a kind of Pavlovian solution. *Seems* like a cocktail, but it's not. And now that Dave has introduced the idea of muddling a strawberry in there, I might try another with a few blueberries, too. Your Thursday Blueberry Stuffed French Toast has inspired me to consider all kinds of blueberry possibilities this week. :)

    Here's to late-night scribbling,
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. This sounds like the perfect drink to beat the summer heat. It also sounds good with the rum. Thanks.

    Thoughts in Progress

  6. Cleo, I think it's hilarious that rum is your catnip. The drink certainly does look refreshing!

    And Dave, I see your expertise extends beyond the grill!

    ~ Krista

  7. Gin. We broke up, and we can't even be just friends anymore.

    I love your recipe, Cleo. I have so much mint, I think I could turn your gingerale concoction into a fabulous punch and add Dave's strawberry
    idea for some pizzaz. Excellent (and funny) post!

  8. Jenn,

    You can freeze and/or dry the mint as well, so you'll have it through the winter (unless you live in a climate where it flourishes year-round; I don't!)

    I also use it for hot mint tea, which is great for stomach upsets, and iced tea (steep teabags plus mint, then add a squeeze of lemon to a pitcher of ice before pouring in the tea) - very refreshing!


  9. Oh my gosh, Cleo, I cannot wait to try this! My kids think it's hilarious that I get a buzz just sniffing the stuff. I did drink a beer once - on a steamy July night, at Shea Stadium - and it was the best thing I ever drank, but no more beer, thanks. Ginger ale, now...with a muddle of mint leaves and lime....I think I'm in love!

  10. Oh yes, and I did have Sex On The Beach once while on vacation at the Oregon Coast, just so we could tell the kids by phone, "We just had Sex On The Beach." It never occurred to them we might have had an alcoholic drink!

  11. Replies to...

    Mason - This drink will beat the heat for sure. Mint and lime are truly refreshing flavors.

    Krista - Oh, yes, rum is my catnip - and not in a good way, lol!

    Jenn - Aw, thanks for the nice words. Interesting that gin sends you to the Dark Side. Seems to me everyone has their own personal Kryptonite. :)

    ~ Cleo

  12. Reply to...

    Morningstar - Thanks for the great *minty* tips!

    Laineshots - Ha! So *beer* is your personal Kryptonite. Got it. Hilarious Sex on the Beach story. I'll bet someone could publish an entire book of drinking stories along these lines. I have the perfect title, too: COCKTALES :)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. I'm with you on the mint and lime combo...completely addicting. I actually made mojito jello shots for a party. I warned everyone that there was booze in there, but nobody listened.

  14. "Cocktales" made me laugh out loud, and then I had to explain why to my husband - thanks!

  15. Wow. I just tried this, and now I'm gazing at my rapidly-emptying glass with adoration. Thank you, Cleo...this is the most refreshing thing I have ever tasted! And Grill, I did add a tbsp. of rum. Amazing how little it takes to taste like a lot. Thank you both!

  16. So am I Cleo, I'm a lightweight!
    This drink is perfect for me. Also, your cat is cute!

  17. I bet this is pretty tasty, even without the booze! I do not drink cocktails often, but certainly enjoy a glass of wine or two in the evening.

  18. Replies to...

    @Laineshots - I'm so glad you enjoyed the drink! Thank you for dropping back and letting us know that Grill's idea of using just a small amount of rum works wonders.

    @My Man's Belly - LOL on the Jello shots. My guess is *everybody* listened. :)

    @Tamantha - Nice to know I'm not alone in the cheap drunk department. And thanks for the kitty cat love. :)

    @bunnycooks!!! - Shout-out to one of my all-time favorite foodie bloggers. Thanks for droppin' on by. Lifting a *virtual* mocktail in your honor. :)

    Stone-cold soberly yours,
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  19. Usually it's the dark liquors that send us to the dark side. :) A non-alcoholic cocktail is perfect for the summer though. Lots of flavor, few calories!

  20. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I love mojitos and can down quite a few (not that I do so often!) but being pregnant, I've been off caffeine and alcohol! I'm trying this out with the many cans of ginger ale lying around my house!

  21. Which type of ginger ale do you prefer in your Virgin Mojito? There are 2 types. The sweeter version is Canada Dry. The less sweet, but more ginger flavor is Schweppes style. Ginger ale connoisseurs prefer Schweppes with cocktails, while I prefer the sweeter Canada Dry. But sugar has always been my Kryptonite, or should I say my Red Kryptonite. On the "Smallville" TV show, like catnip to the cat, Red K. made Clark Kent a more wild and crazy guy (which I guess the Rum likewise does for me, in the straight up Mojito, but more in a good way).

  22. Replies to...

    @The Duo Dishes - So dark liquor is your Kryptonite - interesting! Thanks for dropping by and I'm glad you liked the post.

    @The Housewife - First of all, big congratulations on expecting a new bambino! Being pregnant definitely changes the cocktail habits and I'm glad my mocktail might be of assistance in that area. :) In the meantime I'm raising a (virtual) glass of bubbly to you and your baby's good health! (No alcohol in the virtual version.)

    ~ Cleo

  23. Reply to...

    @Pasta Fazool - So nice to see you here again! YES! Thank you for pointing out the differences in the ginger ale brands. I'm sure many readers will appreciate that info. As for my husband and I - we like a third brand. Seagram's ginger ale seems to fall between the less sweet Schweppes and the sweeter Canada Dry. And that's what we use. (LOL on Clark's Red Kryptonite. We all have our issues, even Superman. :)

    Soberly yours,
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  24. Nothing sends me to the "dark side" but Champagne is definitely my kryptonite *sigh* Love the very idea of bubbly but half a glass and I'm practically comatose! Love, love, love your virgin mojito and I'm seeing lots and lots of mint at the market now!!

  25. cheers ,cleo!wonderful this mojito!