Kick Back! Here's How to Make a Mojito
This minty, super refreshing cocktail was invented for cooling off on a hot day. Get our best mojito recipe, plus favorite variations to change it up.
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To be honest, I can’t remember the first time I tasted a mojito. But I’m pretty sure I was somewhere warm — this refreshing drink is tailor-made for hot weather. With its burst of tangy sweetness, smooth rum, and cooling mint, it’s like an oasis in the middle of a hot day.
It’s no wonder the mojito originated in Cuba, a hot tropical island with an abundance of local rum, mint, fresh limes, and sugarcane. Ernest Hemingway especially loved the mojito recipe at the bar La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, and helped popularize the cocktail with Americans.
Though the mojito is a bar staple, it’s actually a very easy cocktail to make at home, and takes about 5 minutes. The classic mint mojito’s flavors are clean and simple, and pretty perfect. But it’s an easy template for variations with seasonal fruits, or even a different spirit.
Think of this article as your ultimate mojito guide. I’ll answer common questions, share some tips and step-by-step instructions, and finally some of the best mojito recipes to spark your creativity.
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What’s in a mojito?
A mojito is a minty classic cocktail that was invented in Cuba. The mojito’s magic lies in its refreshing combination of ingredients: white rum, mint, lime juice, simple syrup, soda water, and lots of ice. Over the years, bartenders have created many variations of the Cuban mint mojito, adding seasonal fruits from raspberries to watermelon to peaches, swapping the sparkling water for champagne or prosecco, and even spiking the drink with different spirits like vodka, gin, or tequila.
What tools do I need to make a mojito?
In addition to a metal cocktail shaker, a muddler is the main bar tool that professionals use to make a mojito. A muddler is a wooden, metal, or plastic baton with a flat surface on one end, used to gently release the oils in cocktail ingredients like mint leaves. Look for muddlers at a cookware store or big beverage store like BevMo. No muddler? You can use a wooden spoon instead.
You’ll also need a jigger or measuring spoons and a cocktail strainer or other small strainer.
What liquor is in a mojito?
Rum is the spirit that’s traditionally used in a mojito. That’s the most beloved and abundant Cuban distilled spirit in the mojito’s birthplace. Mojitos most often use pale rums that have lighter flavors. On the bottle, you’ll see words like light rum, white rum, or silver rum (plata in Spanish). However, there’s no reason you can’t up-level your mojito experience by choosing a darker aged rum with deeper flavors of caramel and nuts. The best rum is the one you prefer.
How is a mojito traditionally served?
A mojito is typically served in a tall or medium-height glass like a collins glass. It’s a refreshing rum cocktail intended to help beat the heat, rather than deliver a lot of alcohol, so you need plenty of room for soda water and ice. If you use a short rocks cocktail glass, you won’t be able to add enough soda to get the ideal balance. Choose any tall, skinny glass you have on hand — even a pint glass can work in a pinch. Plus, the sprig of mint and lime wheel garnishes look better in a tall glass.
How to make a mojito, step by step
Ready to get shaking?
1. Assemble the mojito ingredients
Photo by Brittany Conerly
In a professional kitchen, time is money, so chefs do what’s called mis en place — assembling all the needed ingredients and tools — before starting a dish. In the middle of making brownies, it’s no fun to discover you don’t have enough butter. A little advance prep time to assemble your mojito ingredients guarantees everything is fresh and flavorful. This is also the time to ensure you have enough of everything, because you know somebody will want seconds.
Make sure you have ice in the freezer, then gather your favorite light rum, some brown sugar (or simple syrup), fresh limes, club soda, and fresh mint leaves.
2. Make a simple syrup
Sure, you can always buy simple syrup. But the best cocktails start with fresh ingredients, so why not make your own? All you need are sugar and water in equal measures. The typical simple syrup recipe calls for granulated white sugar. But for mojitos, I love using light brown sugar because it adds more of the natural sugarcane flavor.
Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar to a glass measuring cup and microwave on high until the sugar dissolves, 1-2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Let it cool, then bottle and refrigerate it for up to a week.
3. Squeeze some fresh lime juice
Here’s how to get the most juice from your limes. At the store, look for limes with smooth and shiny skin, a clue that there’s lots of juice inside. (As insurance, it’s a good idea to buy a couple more limes than you think you need.) Before squeezing, roll each lime on the counter a few times, putting some weight into it, to loosen up the pulp. Doing this helps the juice flow much better. Then cut the limes in half and squeeze with a lime squeezer.
Photo by Brittany Conerly
Muddling is a critical step in making mojitos: it’s how you get that lovely minty aroma and flavor into your drink. Whether you’re using a muddler or a wooden spoon, you want to gently press the leaves over and over, smashing them to release the mint’s natural oils. Since you’re pressing with some force, it’s a good idea to muddle in the bottom of a metal cocktail shaker or in a heavy-duty glass mixing carafe. Be sure you have your simple syrup in the vessel first so it captures all the mint oil.
5. Shake, shake, shake
Photo by Brittany Conerly
Now add the rum and lime juice. Then fill the shaker with ice, put on the shaker lid, and shake until your hands are very cold.
6. Strain and top it up
We’re at the finish line! Fill a tall cocktail glass with ice. Strain the drink into the glass, then top it up with club soda. Taste and add a little more club soda if you like. Perch a lime slice on the rim, add a fresh mint sprig, and enjoy your first sip of pure refreshment.
Get our classic mojito recipe
Here’s how to put it all together with my foundational cocktail recipe.
From the first sip to the last, a cold, minty, sweet, and tangy mojito will make you say “ah” and smile. This classic and refreshing rum mojito is inspired by the recipe that started it all.
Curious about a simple variation? I really embraced the mojito while researching my book The Bubbly Bar and discovered that Hemingway’s mojito was topped up with champagne instead of the club soda we use today. If you want to try it, just swap the splash of club soda in my classic mojito recipe for champagne or another sparkling wine to elevate the drink and gives it a bit more kick.
8 ways to change up your mojito
Once you master the classic mojito, you’ll be all set to try the riffs and variations in these next mojito cocktail recipes, including fruity drinks, mojitos with novel flavors, and creative virgin mojitos.
This super simple recipe infuses the mojito with all the goodness in a juicy ripe peach. You’ll love this summer cocktail’s beautiful golden color.
Guavas are such fragrant, sweet-tart tropical fruits, so this guava mojito is a must for your peak summer cocktail experiences. Love and Confections sizes this for four people, because drinking mojitos with friends is even more fun.
I can’t resist anything made with with passion fruit, and cocktails are no exception. These golden mojitos really deliver on the fruit’s sunny, sweet-tart flavor, as each drink has the equivalent of two passion fruits in it.
This recipe adds a double dose of coconut flavor for a sophisticated take on the traditional mojito. Flour on My Face adds both coconut-flavored rum and coconut milk to the classic mojito recipe for a spirited and super creamy cocktail.
Cilantro is one of those controversial herbs — you either love it or hate it — but I think you should give this cilantro mojito from India a try. The pungent herb blends so beautifully in this sunny mojito made with oranges and lemons, you just might be converted.
I love the idea of a mojito with the fresh and slightly tannic taste of green tea in the background. But this drink has another surprise ingredient: arugula! The salad green adds a nutty, earthy note while making this mojito feel very healthy.
It’s hard to think of any drink that wouldn’t taste better with a little watermelon. This Yummly original alcohol-free mojito by Brittany Conerly has lots of flavor thanks to the addition of fresh watermelon chunks. Be sure to use ripe fruit for a peak experience.
Save this icy, blended pineapple virgin mojito for your hottest days. I love the option of a little chili for a spicy surprise in this summer drink.
More cocktails for summer sipping
You're going to want plenty of options for sharing with friends this season.