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How can one prepare mint for a Mojito a way that will optimally extract its flavor? Are there any other factors that are important while making the drink?

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Hi Shawn, "Best" questions are generally frowned on here, as it just becomes a "my favorite recipe is..." thread. I would suggest changing the question to just focus on the mint extraction. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 0:36
    
Change "best" to "proper" and explain what you're currently doing and what areas you're trying to improve and you'll probably find a better reception to your question. It's a good question, people just become wary of something that seems more like a recipe request. –  Ryan Elkins Feb 25 '11 at 3:22

5 Answers 5

Sugar will extract the mint oils, I have found. It is very easy to put mint leaves, stripped from the stems, and mint tips with tender stems, into a plastic storage bag, tossing and rubbing the closed bag to muddle and bruise the mint. Leaving it for several hours or overnight flavors the sugar. You can then proceed with making a mojito batch by adding lime juice (fresh or a good quality bottled ...i.e. Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice), letting it dissolve with a bit of rocking from time to time, rinsing the bag with some water, and straining. At serving time, add white rum and club soda.

Proportions for a batch of ~ 30 9-oz drinks: ~ 4 c trimmed mint leaves, 2 c sugar (could try 1 1/2 c), 2 c (16 oz) lime juice, 1 c water to rinse storage bag when straining. For finishing the drinks, 1.5-1.75L of rum, 2L of club soda, and garnish with fresh mint and a lime wedge squeezed to release lime oils.

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For mojitos and juleps, I like to make a mint simple syrup. Basically you add a bunch of chopped mint leaves to a 1:1 sugar/water mixture, heat it until the sugar is dissolved, take it off the heat, and let it steep for an hour or two. If it's not minty enough, just put it back on the heat for a bit and repeat. For one cup of sugar/water, I threw in ~1/2 cup of chopped leaves.

Recipe (serve over ice): . 2 Tbsp Mint Syrup . 1.5 oz white rum . 1.5 oz club soda . garnish with mint leaf

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I prefer to muddle the mint. Muddling is simply bruising the mint with a stick.

If you are using sugar (white or cane sugar) to sweeten your Mojito instead of syrup, you can put the sugar in the bottom of the glass and bruise the mint on top of the sugar. It works well to muddle with about a shot (or half shot) of alcohol as well. Muddling gives you a fresh, clean and "uncomplicated" flavor.

Blending or chopping the mint or even over-muddling causes lots of little bits of leaf to separate and float around in the drink which is not enjoyable. Muddling lightly but enough to bruise the whole leaf without separating it into chunks has the result of maximum flavor with minimum mess.

I let the muddled mint soak in the glass along with the drink and the mint contributes over time. When you sip a Mojito, sometimes the best and brightest flavors come near the end of the glass.

If you were making batches of Mojitos you can premake a batch and let it soak a bit in advance (15 minutes is probably enough to get a close to ideal flavor). You can even strain the batch as you pour to avoid getting mint leaves and other debris in the serving glasses.

I'd avoid long term infusion unless you are ready to experiment a bit and possibly make batches you won't like. I have done deep infusions of both spearmint (rum) and peppermint (vodka) where you pour out about 1/4 of the bottle's liquid content and pack the rest with mint - then leave it sit in a dark place for 3-4 weeks (light can affect the flavor). The result is a very strong, greenish mint extract with rich bitter tea flavors. Diluting the Peppermint Vodka infusion with equal parts of normal vodka and adding some simple syrup makes a nice "Peppermint Schnapps".

An important thing to note is infusion deeply extracts flavors -- more just the mint oils and the "fresh" mint flavors you get from muddling. It will actually extra the color (chlorophyll) and have a much more leafy flavor (think tea) rather than just the cleaner light mint flavors you get with muddling. In some cases these flavors are not desirable -- think about the bitterness you can get when you over-steep tea. Some of these flavors can be reduced by using only leaves or leaf tips and avoiding stems and branches which add higher levels of alkaloids and bitterness. The only way to make those bitter flavors palatable is by diluting with uninfused liquors and water and adding sugar to mask the bitterness.

Infusions do yield interesting and rich flavors but they require experimentation and a long term view where you may be willing to prepare your alcohol for the Mojitos several weeks in advance. In my experience, they may also not yield the best desired flavor compared to simply letting fresh leaves steep for a short time.

Short term infusion as noted in another answer (1-2 days) sounds interesting but some of the fresh flavors in mint are very volatile (i.e. think of the smell immediately when you tear a mint leaf in half). These volatile flavors become a bit more muted compared to the other flavors when infusing for any length of time though, even just a day or two.

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In the summer when we have more mint than I know what to do with, I throw it in a mason jar, leave it a day or two, and then drink immediately. The flavor is lovely and bright, without any of the bitterness or muted flavor you talk about. I think the short time span for infusion and consumption is probably key. Give it a try. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 21:27
    
Great info regarding short vs long infusion. –  Ray Feb 26 '11 at 3:27

as yossarian said, DEFINITELY make sure you use the lime rind. it's key. i'm not sure about infusing the liquor -- just use really fresh mint, muddle it until the sugar & syrup is all mixed well, and you'll have a great mojito. if you can, get the red-veined mint (the flavor is better). here's the recipe i've used that has served me well for many years:

2-3 ounces light rum, 1 ounce lime, 2 teaspoons sugar, Mint, Soda Water

Place sugar, a large pinch (small handful) of mint, and splash of soda water in a pint glass. Use muddler to lightly press mint and dissolve sugar until it smells of spearmint gum. Squeeze both halves of lime into the glass, leaving one hull in the mixture. Add rum, stir, and fill with ice. Top with soda water, garnish with mint sprig and serve.

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I must say, I don't infuse rum for mojitos, a regular summer drink. But it works so well for mint juleps, I thought I'd mention it. Great way to use mint from the yard too. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 4:16
    
Also, I think your order is wrong. You need to add the lime early enough to muddle it. If you don't, you won't release as much oil from the rind. Soda water should be added as the last ingredient. Stirring or muddling will release the bubbles from the soda water, leaving you with a flat drink. Adding it at the end will help preserve your fizz. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 14:40
    
my recipe is rather old, and i vouch for it without question. i think potato/potahto in regards to muddling the lime or not - plenty of oils get in either way. as a clarification, i will note that the soda water added at the beginning is just a splash to help mash up the sugar & mint during muddling. by far the most soda is added at the end, as you say. fizz is important! –  franko Feb 25 '11 at 16:25
    
Ahhh. I use the lime juice as a vehicle to help muddle the mint. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 16:45

The best way I've found to get full flavor out of the mint is to infuse your liquor with it. I do this for mint juleps. Simply take a handful of mint, bruise it (you can just crush it in your hand or stick it in a bag and whack it a couple of times with a wooden spoon), and place it in your liquor of choice (white rum in this case) and leave it for a day or two. You'll need to experiment with the right amount for your drink, but I loosely pack a mason jar about half full to do bourbon.

If you want the actual leaves in your drink, then you need to make sure you muddle the mint rather than just putting it in. What you want from the mint is the oils in it, these are released better when you bruise the leaves. So just chopping and throwing it in won't work well. You actually need to crush them.

It's also important to use the lime rind in addition to the juice. And again, muddle it. The reasoning is the same. There are oils in the rind that are released during muddling that have a decidedly different flavor than just the juice.

To finish out, pick your sweetener. I like to use simple syrup, but you can also use sugar (or anything sweet, if you want to change the flavor, try a flavored syrup). And then top it up with something non-alcoholic. I particularly like sprite, but also use lemonade or sometimes just soda water. Be careful to balance the sweetener based on whatever you're adding; Sprite obviously needs less sugar added than soda water.

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+1 for bruising mint. Just like basil, this is how you get the flavor. You might even steep the leaves and rind in the rum (several hours at least, or, as @yassarian says, a day or two), strain, and then add leaves when serving for garnish. –  Ray Feb 25 '11 at 13:59
    
@Ray, I like the idea of infusing and then adding mint as garnish. I kind of feel like it's not a "mojito" without some mint leaves, but I also find them kind of annoying while drinking. I'll try adding the lime rind too. When it gets warmer. It's not a winter drink. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 14:42
    
Wait, wait, you have an iSi and you're still infusing the old-fashioned way!? –  Aaronut Feb 25 '11 at 15:05
    
@aaronut, I haven't actually made this drink since getting the iSi. Also, I drink enough that just using N2O to do infusions would be way too expensive. Particularly when mint is so easy and quick to do. –  yossarian Feb 25 '11 at 16:14

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