Vanilla-Ginger Mojito

This drink makes me think of the saying, “They go together like _____ & _____!”  Of course, you get to fill in the blanks with just about anything – everyone has their favorite combinations.  They go together like bacon and eggs!  Like salt and pepper!  Like copy and paste… or peanut butter and jelly… or Fred and Ginger…  Speaking of Ginger, I have a new combination to add to that list!

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We have a cocktail tradition in our house.  It started several years ago with classic dry martinis every Friday afternoon to cap-off the work week and celebrate the beginning of the weekend.  The ritual became known as “Martini Friday,” but these days I try to come up with something new and different each week (though it’s still called “Martini Friday”).  It’s become such an ingrained institution that now our home bar is stocked to the gills with an inordinate number of gin and vodka bottles, a dizzying amount of rums and more varieties of whiskey than I can name.  It’s amazing how these things just sort of accumulate!  But that’s what I love best about making cocktails at home – all the variety available in the spirits.  No two taste the same or combine the same way in a drink.  An Old Fashioned made with Irish whiskey is entirely different from one made with Kentucky Bourbon.  A Mojito with Jamaican rum is not the same as one made with rum from Barbados!  The fun is in finding the combinations that you like best.

I start planning the Friday cocktails early in the week (like Tuesday – I told you it was an institution!) and I usually begin with some classic food combinations.  Cherries and vanilla.  Peaches and cream.  Lemon and thyme.  But one of my favorite combinations is inspired by, of all things, an iced tea I had a few years back.  It was black oolong tea, brightened with a spritz of lime and sweetened with vanilla and ginger syrup.   At the time it seemed like such a novel combination – vanilla and ginger – the sweetness of the vanilla was nearly eclipsed by the zing of the ginger, but the ginger faded fast, leaving the gentle flavour of vanilla to linger on my tongue.   I’ve been playing with those two ingredients ever since.  They make such amazing dance partners!  Especially in the afternoon at the end of a long week.  Fridays and cocktails go together like ginger and vanilla.

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Vanilla – Ginger Mojito

(makes 2 drinks)

10 mint leaves
3 oz light rum
1.5 oz ginger simple syrup (see recipe below)
1.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz sparkling water

I never buy simple syrup – it’s incredibly easy to make in the microwave and can be made in small batches.  I make only as much as I need so none is wasted.  I love infusing it with whatever flavors will compliment my drink.  I make a raspberry version with fresh raspberries, I’ve added star anise and vanilla, and even rosemary.

To make the ginger syrup place 3 TBSP water in a small, microwave-safe bowl.  Add 3 TBSP sugar and 3 – 4 slices of peeled, fresh ginger.  Microwave until the water comes to a boil (this is about 40 seconds in my microwave).  Stir to dissolve the sugar and let cool.  Remove the ginger and use in your drinks.  This makes enough for two drinks.

To make the Mojitos, muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker.  Place ice in the shaker, then add the rum, simple syrup, lime juice and vanilla.  Shake until well blended and very cold.  Strain into two glasses filled with ice and top each with 1.5 oz sparkling water.  Garnish with a lime slice and a few mint leaves.

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