A few weeks ago, I learned (in a very public way) how NOT to make a mojito. When I’m prepping for a crowd, I like to mix the drink several hours before go time. It gives the ingredients plenty of time to mingle and get acquainted. With just five simple ingredients – mint, lime, rum, sugar and club soda – it’s not rocket science. I’ve made pitchers and single servings, both with wonderfully refreshing results, until my friend hosted a BBQ. They had never had my favorite summertime drink so I decided to prepare a pitcher the night before and delight their taste buds. The mojito experience I gave them however, was akin to a dental cleaning. All it lacked was a polishing sponge and the mosquito-like whir of handheld power tools. I ruined their first mojito experience simply by using the wrong mint.
Every year, I grow a pot of spearmint near my patio door for easy access. This year I decided to try something different and picked up a container of Sweet Mint from Bonnie Plants (in the terracotta pot). It produced a wonderfully delicate, minty but not overpowering mojito. Just the way I like it. Next to it is a pot of peppermint I received as cuttings from a friend. That’s the container I mistakenly cut from when I prepped the drink, pulling the same number of leaves as I would have from the sweet mint. While both are members of the “Mentha” family, they’re vastly different in the amount of menthol they contain. At 40% for peppermint versus .05% for spearmint, you can see why things went south.
Menthol is responsible for the cool sensation you get when you brush your teeth or chew a piece of mint gum. Despite the sensation, there is no real temperature change in your mouth. It’s all in the way your sensory receptors interpret it. My concoction amounted to an icy glass of mouthwash served with a wedge of lime. Ugh. Had I tasted it before serving, I could have saved us all. In retrospect, watching their faces as they choked down that first sip was pretty funny. Live and learn.
Grow Your Own Mint
Mint is notoriously easy to grow. Which is why I plant it in containers, not the ground. It’s a real thug and can take over an entire bed. Mint spreads quickly by underground rhizomes, forming dense and intricate webs just beneath the surface. Leaving behind even a tiny bit in a bed means it’ll be back. It’s that tough. Planting them within impermeable boundaries like walls and sunken edging is another means of control.
If letting it run wild is more your style, place it in a damp area of the garden that receives full to part sun. Whether you opt for container or garden bed, be sure it doesn’t dry out. Harvesting is a cinch and pinching back the tips regularly encourages a bushier growth habit. I feed it every other week with Espoma Bloom! organic liquid plant fertilizer to keep it productive. If allowed to flower, the honeybees will thank you for it.
Mint thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-11. If you’re unsure of your zone, click here. North of zone 8, mint will die back but its rugged root system will keep it alive and well until spring arrives.
Do you grow mint? How do you use it?
- 6-10 spearmint leaves, or to taste
- ½ lime, quartered
- 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste
- 1.5 ounces white rum
- Club Soda
- Ice Cubes
- Place mint leaves and a quarter of the lime in a sturdy glass.
- Muddle, or mash, them lightly. Just enough to release the mint oil and lime juice.
- Add the sugar and two more lime wedges and muddle.
- Fill the glass with ice and pour the rum over the top.
- Fill with club soda, stir, garnish with the remaining lime wedge and find a comfy place to chill.