Last February and we had the biggest snow fall of that winter. Snow was piled higher than my car in the front of the yard from all the snow blowers removing the snow from the roads, and while it’s all so pretty – there were days I dreamed of summer. This year our family headed south to the Dominican Republic for Christmas and my dreams of summer beaches became a reality.
Ah sandy beaches. Where one can sit enjoying the warmth of the sun rays and sip on a cool refreshing drink. Something exotic? Like a Mojito!
Last year we started trying ideas around a non-alcoholic Mojito option so the whole family could enjoy the taste of summer. We found that putting together a drink that is normally rum and club soda based was more challenging than we anticipated. According to food.com a Virgin Mojito simply uses the club soda or switches it out for ginger ale and hold the rum.
Does it work? Well… Sort of.
The resulting drink was approved by my two girls, but I found the flavour of the mint less noticeable than I expected. The drink ended up tasting mostly like a lime pop, slightly sweet and pretentious, but not something that says “Wow! This was worth the expensive fresh mint leaves I drove 2 hours out of town for!”
What to do to fix this… well the drink called for the mint muddled with lime and sugar before adding a simple syrup and ginger ale. So what if the mint was incorporated into the syrup? Or how about more mint mixed in? (The recipe called for 15 mint leaves – but hey why not double it!) Since I didn’t have anymore mint and wasn’t about to venture back out onto the highway for another 2 hour drive to get some we left it at that… what if?
Online, other recipes included apple juice (BBC and Wikihow), lemons or lemonade (Salisfood.com and BBC), and lemon-lime soda was suggested instead of ginger ale or club soda (Wikihow and Salisfood.com). But all sites I found suggested that only 8-10 mint leaves was necessary. In our test, I found that ginger ale’s flavour did not work well in the drink as it competed with the mint and lime. I would not recommend using it in further recipes. Again we were left with … what if?
So, this Christmas, I had the tropical drink experts make me up a virgin mojito (and a “leaded” one) and discovered the secret to a successful summer drink. MORE.
Yep. MORE mint, MORE lime and MORE sugar = MORE kick. Watching the bartender make up my order I noticed that they used chopped mint and muddled that into a sugary syrup then topped it up with something akin to lemonade. I found the tropical virgin version to be less lime tasting and have less kick than I expected but it had plenty of taste which my attempts at home had lacked. (The “leaded” version had plenty of kick due to the addition of rum).
It was time to test out my theory and make a High Octane Version. Loaded with fresh lime wedges, lime sweet and sour mix, and about 3 cups of chopped fresh mint, I headed over to our family New Year’s Eve party. “Who want’s a mojito?”
The result? Yummy! The drink matched the bright taste and kick of it’s adult brother and was enjoyed by teens and adults alike. When I left the party a few hours later my niece was sad to see me go – because the drinks were leaving with me. Success? I think so!
Virgin “High Octane” Mojito
- 3 tablespoons chopped mint
- 2 lime wedges (1/4 lime)
- 2 oz lime sweet and sour mix (see below)
- 4 oz 7-up (or lemon lime soda)
Muddle chopped mint, lime wedges and sweet and sour mix in bottom of a cocktail shaker by crushing the limes to release the juices and pressing the mixture about 4-5 times onto the bottom of the shaker. Add ice and shake once or twice. Pour in 7-up, stir and pour contents into a tall glass (not all the mint will make it to the glass but that’s ok). Top with 7-up if needed, Garnish with a lime twist or mint sprig and serve.
The 7-Up takes the place of lemonade in the tropical version but adds fizz and sweetness lacking in the original recipe tested using club soda. The addition of lime sweet and sour mix replaced the need for a simple syrup and sugar while maintaining the intensity of the lime taste.
Using chopped mint and fresh limes introduce a bitterness (Wikihow explains that tearing or bruising the mint releases chlorophyll which is bitter, and the lime rinds also have a bitter element). Many cocktails call for bitters to balance the sweetness and allow the drinks flavours to come through and this is the case here.
The chopped mint leaves give a stronger mint flavour, the fresh limes lend a sharp kick to the drink and the sweetness of the 7-up and sugary sweet and sour mix create exactly the taste needed for this drink to compete head on with it’s “leaded” brother. I did find I suck up a bit of chopped mint through my straw – so if you don’t like that – I would recommend straining the drink before serving.
Lime Sweet & Sour Mix
This version uses only lime juice for it’s sour component. I used bottled lime juice for this as I was adding fresh limes into the final cocktail. While fresh lime juice is always nicer, however since this recipe is cooked it is not essential. This recipe is not as sour as a standard sweet and sour mix as the ratio of sugar to juice is higher.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lime juice
Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan and allow to come to a gentle boil. Allow to simmer 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Cool and store until needed.
Kid-o-metre 5/5 Kids loved it.
Taste: 5/5 Nailed it!
Simplicity: 5/5 Simple and easy to make.
Ingredient finding: 3/5 Mint is not available locally and this recipe calls for a whole lot – I was able to purchase bunches like parsley at a decent price when passing through a larger town.