A few years ago we were going to a conference in Jamaica and thought.. why not visit Cuba while we’re there? It was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had. Our travel agent said about 15 times, “Don’t talk to the locals, you’ll get robbed.” We’ve never listened to advice like that. We know there are good people everywhere.
On our first morning in Havana we went outside and this nice man named Alberto asked us if we wanted a horse carriage ride through the old part of Havana. Discarding the aforementioned advice from the travel agent and we hopped aboard. We had a lovely time and we stopped to have our first mojito with Alberto (it turned into lunch – Alberto loves being treated to turtle soup). We asked where we could find a guide to see Cuba outside of Havana and he patted his chest and said, “Alberto will do it but you must rent the car because Cuban citizens cannot rent cars.”
And that’s just what we did. He guided us through beautiful countryside to the Bay of Pigs (more mojitos and a swim) and we stopped at several places on the way back to our hotel to pick up “supplies” for Alberto. Cubans will stand by the roadside and sell cheese, lobster, fruit and anything else you can think of. He invited us to his house for dinner (our travel agent would have shit herself on that one!) and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s one of our very best travel memories.
The next day he brought his wife and we went touring in another direction.
So have had mojitos in Havana and also on a beach near the Bay of Pigs. I’ve gotta tell you, on a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a nice cold mojito. Ok, a pitcher of them might be better but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
8 – 10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 – 2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar, depending upon how tart you like your mojito to be
1 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 fluid ounces white rum
1/2 cup club soda
Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a sturdy glass.
Use a wooden stick (called a muddler) to bruise the mint and lime to release the mint oils and lime juice. This is very important so don’t skip this. The bartender in Havana said that if you don’t bruse the mint enough, it’s not a good mojito.
Add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar and use the muddler again to release the lime juice. Do not strain the mixture. Fill the glass almost to the top with ice. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with carbonated water. Stir, taste, and add more sugar if desired. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.
Ahhh… just thinking of it now makes me feel all summery.
If you ever have a chance to visit Cuba, don’t pass it up. Cubans are some of the friendliest people we’ve met anywhere in the world. Our horse carriage driver and his wife invited us for dinner at their apartment. We went!