To many people, the quintessential summer cocktail is the mojito. To me it brings back memories of the NYC blackout in August 2003, when I was unable to get home and stuck tending bar, surrounded by guests thinking “the end was nigh“ and listening to news updates on battery-operated radios.
I know that sounds positively prehistoric, considering our dependence on smartphones only 15 years later! But I had five hours of nonstop mint bashing while my patrons waved $100 bills in my face to make them multiple mojitos before darkness fell on us all. The bright side was that it was the quickest $600 I think I’ve ever made.
These days on an average PTSD-inducing Friday night bar shift I’m doing far more complex arrangements and would welcome the simpler times of muddle, shake, dump, splash. However, with the bounty of fresh produce available in SoCal, I can think of several alternatives to the standard basic mint; shiso or arugula leaves are fantastic substitutes.
Since I lean toward savory vegetal flavors, I also love to add more out-there ingredients such as peas and pea tendrils. A cocktail included in my upcoming book Clean + Dirty Drinking features a riff on the mojito that combines peas, mint and nasturtium leaves, but for that recipe you need to buy the book (hint, hint).
Instead, how about this version I’ve been tinkering with the last couple of weeks — it’s a mashup of Japanese, Italian, Swedish and local California ingredients to make a sort of Salad Bowljito. I switched out the traditional rum for an aromatic Swedish Akvavit, and in place of lime I use the more floral Japanese yuzu juice. For the sweet portion, an Italian bergamot orange-laced liqueur joins the mix and for greenery, pea tendrils, mint and fennel. The splashy finale comes from a Japanese yuzu soda called Kimino.
Without further ado, here is the Salad Bowljito:
2 oz Ahus Akvavit
½ oz Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
¾ oz yuzu juice (use the unsalted kind)
½ oz simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
1½ oz Kimino yuzu soda
2 chopped pea tendrils
4 mint leaves
4 fennel sprigs
1 shiso leaf
Add all greens to shaker tin with simple syrup and yuzu juice. Muddle ever so lightly so as not to bruise your ingredients too much. Pour in remaining ingredients (except for soda) and shake with 3 or 4 ice cubes for 5 seconds. Pour soda into tin and fine strain into an ice-filled glass of choice. Garnish with pea tendrils, fennel fronds and any seasonal veggie blossoms such as arugula or mustard frill.