The Not-So-Obvious Mistake You've Been Making With Mojitos

Mojitos are such a classic that you don't really have to measure out anything to make one. All it takes is about one part lime juice, a half part simple syrup, two parts rum, some club soda to top it off, and a few sprigs of mint, which you can easily adjust according to how boozy or sweet you like your cocktails. This may seem simple enough, but when it comes to adding the mint, there's actually a right and wrong way to go about it, at least if you want to infuse your mojito with the best possible flavor. Most people assume that it's best to muddle the herb to release the maximum amount of flavor, however, this is the last thing you should do.

Mint is a delicate herb, and when you muddle it, the flavor changes. The oils that get released from the leaves in the process do create a strong aroma and minty flavor, but this is often accompanied by bitterness. You can just as easily activate the mintiness by adding the leaves to your shaker instead of pounding them with a muddler.

Bruising vs. muddling

Bruising and muddling are terms often used interchangeably, but while similar, they are different techniques that serve their own purpose when making cocktails. Usually reserved for herbs, bruising is used when you want to release more flavor but still want to leave the ingredient intact. It can be done by gently folding or rolling around the leaves or by lightly beating them with a muddler in the palm of your hand. Muddling on the other hand typically involves crushing and mashing with the addition of coarse sugar. It's ideal when you want to completely break down an ingredient or extract the juices from a fruit.

When making a mojito, you'll want to bruise your mint as it's a more delicate ingredient, and you'll want to muddle your lime. Limes of course are hardier than mint and have a tough rind; they need the rougher technique of muddling to squeeze out their juices and release the citrus oils from the rind. So, contrary to popular belief when making a mojito you'll want to keep your limes and mints separate, rather than muddling them together.

Why muddling mint makes mojitos bitter

When you muddle mint, not only do you release the oils from the leaves, but you also macerate its veins, releasing the chlorophyll stored within them. Chlorophyll is the compound responsible for making plants green, but it also happens to have a bitter taste. As long as the veins of the leaves don't get punctured, however, this bitterness will be contained. This is why you'll want to be a bit more delicate with mint and opt for bruising instead of muddling.

If over-muddled mint has thrown off the taste of your mojito, fortunately, you may be able to salvage it. The first step is to remove the mint leaves, because the longer they sit in the rum and lime juice, the more chlorophyll you'll taste. To counteract any bitterness that remains afterward, you'll need to add simple syrup and more lime juice. The bitterness might not go away completely, but it'll be a lot harder to detect due to the additional layers of flavor. It may also help to introduce more mint leaves, just make sure you don't muddle them beforehand or you'll end up exactly where you started.

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