Few summer drinks are more more refreshing than a mojito–the Cuban cocktail of white rum, mint, lime, and sugar, topped with soda water. Chowhounds offer trusty techniques for achieving the classic, as well as some interesting change-up suggestions.

Every good mojito begins with good muddling–to extract the maximum amount of aromatic oil from the mint, and to mix the flavors thoroughly with the sugar. Since mint and lime vary in flavor, you’ll need to play around a bit to find the right proportions.

Here’s a mojito primer:

Combine a few sprigs of mint leaves, juice and rind of at least half a lime, and about 1 1/2 tsp sugar in a 16 oz glass and muddle very well. (If you don’t have a bar muddler, you can use the handle of a wooden spoon or a citrus reamer–covering the reamer end with a bar towel so you don’t injure yourself.) Take the lime rind out if you prefer, add plenty of ice, a shot and a half of rum, and some soda water.

As for whether to leave the lime rind in the glass, it’s all a matter of personal taste, according to Dave Feldman. “Leaving the lime inside of the glass is optional–some people like a clean glass–others like it to look like a swamp. Either can work.”

jackie de makes mint-infused simple syrup, and muddles that with lime in place of using mint leaves and sugar. She also adds a crushed mint leaf to her finished drink.

A bartenders’ “secret” is replacing sugar and club soda with Sprite (ITurnedOutTV loves this version because you can go sugarless by using Diet Sprite).

Lots of hounds like variations made with flavored rums or other spirits. Recommended: Malibu coconut rum or mango rum; cachaca in place of rum; adding a dash of angostura bitters; using a dry Champagne or prosecco in place of club soda.

Board Links: Mojito time!

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