If Mexico had a St. Patrick's Day, it would be Cinco de Mayo. There's just a slight tweak to the festivities. One can always count on tequila, sombreros and Margaritas — the overly salty, overly soured kind.
I have a hard time believing Cinco de Mayo is really all that Mexican anymore. Heck, even area Irish bars offer gimmicky deals in the spirit of boozing. So this year, why not shake up your usual 5th of May and expand your Latin American horizons? Skip the salt on the rim and try one of my favorite Baltimore specialties, a Mojito from Little Havana in Federal Hill. Of course, Little Havana isn't the only Mojito in town, but for my money, it's Baltimore's best.
Yes, I know. Havana is in Cuba. So? If you've ever been to this popular summertime spot, you know they're not ones to let geography stop the Cico de Mayo party. In fact, you're already behind schedule. Little Havana celebrates the holiday for five days (get it?), leading up the big event. They offer the usual beer-and-Margarita specials, but the standout star of their cocktail menu is their fresh-made Mojito.
Bartender and Havana's co-owner Marc Gentile spent 15 years developing the recipe, even traveling to Panama and Brazil to pick up a few tips. The secret to Little Havana's version of this muddled lime-and-rum classic? The fresh mint and lime — he goes through a lot of each of these ingredients when he sells hundreds of the drinks a day. But Gentile says the real trick is basic: "Good ingredients, good prep and hard work."
I think it has more to do with the generous helping of fruit and herbs he throws into each cocktail. Instead of an overpowering rum bite, the result is a refreshing "limeade" taste that finishes with cool minty flavor. It's a far classier way to celebrate Mexico ... or something like it.
How to make the Mojito
Place healthy portion of the following in a 16-ounce glass:
Add splash of soda water and muddle. Fill with ice. Add light rum to taste, finish with club soda. Cover, shake like hell. Serve.
Where to get the Mojito
1325 Key Highway, Federal Hill
16-oz. glass, $9; 64-oz. pitcher, $32