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Mojitos 101 at Carnivale

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Aug 12, 2011 3:30PM

Carnivale University - the fantastic mash-up of a name the Chicago restaurant has given its occasional classes in mixology, Latin cooking and entertaining - met again on Wednesday evening for a basic introduction to the Mojito. Led by head bartender and house mixologist Daryl Freeman, Mojitos 101 gave the crowd of 50 or so students the tools and know-how to whip up this classic, fresh, fair-weather rum cocktail at home.

Attendees were greeted with a glass of Sangria to kick off the class, which was held in a large, airy event space a level up from Carnivale's main bar area. Once things got under way, Freeman dished out a quick history of the drink while servers offered up plantain-and-shredded-beef hors d'oeuvres - a little preventive medicine against the ensuing flow of Mojito. Freeman said the modern Mojito can trace its lineage to a 16th-century beverage called El Draque, whose name honors the sea captain/pirate Sir Francis Drake. But it was in Cuba where the Mojito took root and flourished in its more recognizable form: a jazzy concert of mint, lime, sugar and rum.

Carnivale's Mojito recipe opts for simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) and a topper of club soda, which keeps the drink's texture smooth and its finish bubbly. Everyone in the class got the chance to make his or her own drink. The key, Freeman explained, was to gently muddle the mint, lime and syrup. If you attack the lime too aggressively, unwanted bitter flavors in the fruit's peel may find their way into the liquid.

We followed up our classic Mojito with a twist on the traditional recipe, a coconut Mojito. This version employed a half ounce of coconut puree in place of the same amount of simple syrup. It demonstrated how broadly one can interpret the basic recipe of mint, citrus, sweetener and rum. All kinds of fruits could be used to add sweetness to the drink. The possibilities are wide open. In fact, Freeman said that numerous customers have submitted their own Mojito recipes for inclusion on Carnivale's bar menu, and few stellar one have indeed made it on the list.

Carnivale University reconvenes Sunday, September 11 for "Feast in the Field at Mick Klug Farms," then again on Wednesday, September 28 for Carnivale's sixth anniversary party.

Carnivale Mojito

6 to 8 mint leaves
1/2 lime, quartered
1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 oz. simple syrup
club soda

In a highball glass, muddle lime, mint and simple syrup. Add rum and fill glass with ice. Top with club soda. Pour all ingredient into a shaker and back into the highball glass.

Carnivale is located at 702 West Fulton Market.