The mojito can seem like the drink of the nightclub crowd, best served over ice and pumping techno music. In fact, the beverage is the definition of the classic cocktail, having been the potion of choice for Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro and Cubans everywhere long before the Nuevo Latino craze of the 1990s brought the drink to American hipsters.
So who better than a classic cocktails guy — adept at both history and simplicity — to deliver the nojito? Dan Searing, of forthcoming Washington, D.C., wine bar Room 11, is that guy.
“You don't want to make making a cocktail like deboning a chicken every time,” Searing says of his approach.
For this summer, Searing, who is tending bar at the Warehouse Theater until Room 11 opens, created L'Enfant Lemonade, a masculine concoction.
Check out other trendy drinks as well: Bar Pilar’s former bar manager, Adam Bernbach, serves a more-exotic-than-it-seems nojito, which he dubbed the Mylan. And though its namesake month has passed, May Flowers is a cocktail by Firefly’s Alice Gaber that guests would be unlikely to turn away.
6 ounces applejack, preferably Laird's
3 ounces Lillet Blanc
Juice of 3 lemons
2 ounces simple syrup*
3 ounces sparkling mineral water, such as Perrier
Thin slices of lemon, for garnish
Combine the applejack, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice and simple syrup in a small pitcher; stir to combine.
Fill 4 tall glasses with ice. Divide the drink mixture evenly among them, then top each with some of the sparkling mineral water. Stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel. Serves 4.
Note: To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow, rolling boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a glass container and let cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate until chilled; store indefinitely.
Sparkling lemon soda such as San Pellegrino Limonata may be substituted for the lemon juice, simple syrup and mineral water.
2 ounces gin, preferably Bluecoat American Dry gin
2 ounces Riesling
2 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 ounces lavender liqueur (may substitute St-Germain elderflower liqueur or Creme de Violette).*
Edible flowers, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the gin, wine, juice and liqueur. Cover and shake well, then divide among cocktail (martini) glasses. Garnish with petals of edible flowers.
Note: If you'd like to make your own liqueur, soak 1 cup of food-safe flowers (such as honeysuckle, violets, roses and elderflowers) or 1/2 cup lavender petals in one 750-ml bottle of vodka or neutral-grain alcohol. Let it sit for 7 to 10 days, then strain. Add up to 1/2 cup sugar (to taste); stir until dissolved. For a nonalcoholic version, simmer lavender petals in a simple syrup (see recipe for L'Enfant Lemonade).
3/4 ounce agave syrup or nectar
1 large slice cantaloupe, peeled and cut into 4 one-inch chunks
1 1/2 ounces blanco or silver tequila
1 1/2 ounces pils or pilsner-style beer
Place the agave syrup or nectar in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker; add the chunks of cantaloupe and muddle to release their flavor. Add the tequila and fill with ice. Cover and shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then pour into a highball glass. Add ice as needed. Top with the beer. Makes 1 serving.
Stock your bar for summer
Here are a few trendy spirits that turn up again and again. ( Don’t forget to visit the spirits’ Web sites, which have a trove of recipes.)
• Lillet Blanc: This citrusy French wine aperitif is a classic ingredient that’s making a comeback. “Because of the aromatics and complexity, it’s delicate enough to drink on its own, on the rocks,” says Room 11’s Dan Searing, who used it to sweeten and blend his L’Enfant Lemonade.
• Elderflower liqueur: Taste this mild and sweet liqueur, and lychees, or perhaps pears, come to mind, but it’s actually derived from the fragrant blooms of European elder trees. Just a few years old, St-Germain is the brand you’ll see on the shelves of some better bars.
• Gin (yes, gin): Gin, it turns out, is simply vodka infused with botanicals and herbs, making it an ideal ingredient for an aspiring mixologist looking to take flavors up a notch from vodka cocktails. Manufacturers are now using different herbs and infusions, so each gin is different. Hendrick’s, for example, is scented with roses and cucumbers. Or try this heady concoction: Top a floral gin with ice, lime and a couple of drops of rose water.