by Amanda Rose Newton
After last month’s cold snap, it is safe to say that spring has sprung here in Brevard county!
What better way to celebrate the sunshine, warmth, and of course new plants than with a tasty beverage enjoyed in nature?
Using fresh mint in cocktails
Thanks to St. Patrick’s day and perhaps because it signifies a “fresh” start, mint has become integral to March celebrations. From Shamrock Shakes to mint jelly to accompany your Easter lamb, peppermint makes its rounds to all the spring soirées.
Mint also happens to be one of the easiest herbs to grow, and here at Rockledge Gardens we have at least 3 different varieties on hand for your creative culinary adventures.
Traditional peppermint provides that cool bite that makes everything feel clean while chocolate mint adds a noticeable decadence to a bowl of Florida-grown strawberries.
Perhaps the most celebrated warm-weather drink featuring mint is the Mojito, made famous in Cuba by Hemmingway in the 1930s. Today, it has become a staple at every tiki bar along the Indian River coast, each having its own special variation on the classic. For being such a simple drink, there is something magical about the herbal addition of fresh-muddled mint that stimulates instant relaxation and tranquility. We feel that picking and using your own mint makes this drink even better!
While rum is traditionally the liquor of choice (and feel free to sneak a shot in if you are having one of those days that call for extra relaxation) as the backdrop for this beautiful drink, here we sub in club soda with agave nectar to keep the agave in the drink. Here is where you can really put your signature on this beverage by choosing a flavored seltzer (feel free to get fruity with a pomegranate or blueberry if you wish).
One of my personal favorite substitutes is locally-produced Living Vitalitea’s lovely butterfly mint kombucha (available by the growlerful in the farmer’s market), which not only keeps the mint flavor going strong but adds in additional healthy bacterial cultures to boot!
As for the ideal mint to use, classic peppermint or spearmint is preferred by cocktail purists, but pineapple, apple, and even the aptly named “mojito” variety are all fair game.
In fact, I have been known to mix several with delicious results. You can even seek the assistance of a little lemongrass, basil, or thyme and call it a “garden mojito” which can shift with the seasonal offerings of your landscape.
This refreshing minty Mojito Mocktail mimics the robust minty flavor of the rum-based classic, without the booze! Use the suggestions above to guide your creation and we won’t tell if you add in a shot (or two) of rum!
10 fresh mint leaves plus more for garnish
1/2 lime cut into 4 wedges, divided
1 oz agave nectar
1 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup club soda, flavored seltzer, soda, or kombucha
1. In a Collins or pint glass, add mint leaves and 1 lime wedge.
2. Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime, releasing the fragrant mint oils and lime juice.
* No muddler? No problem! The handle of a spoon works just as well!
3. Add 2 more lime wedges and the agave, and muddle again to release the lime juice.
*Purists do not strain the mixture, but if you have young ones who do not tolerate anything solid in their drink, feel free to do so.
4. Fill the glass with ice to your preference.
5. Add club soda and more agave to taste if desired.
6. Garnish with mint leaves (or any herb of your choice) and remaining lime wedge.
Sip, Relax, Repeat.