Every drink category goes through trends, for better or worse -- Spain is hot in the wine world right now (better), lime-flavoured beer sales remain strong (worse), etc.
Cocktails are certainly no exception -- Sex and the City ushered in the Cosmopolitan in a big way, then pomegranate-flavoured drinks started taking over.
These days, mint seems to be the popular flavour when it comes to cocktails. It's a refreshing herb that works well with a variety of spirits, can be incorporated into either dry or sweet cocktails with ease, and imparts a coolness that's nice when the mercury rises.
Stemming from their marriage in mojitos, mint and lime are as popular a combo as any. Armed with nothing more than an Internet connection and the desire to drink minty cocktails, I tracked down a few cocktail recipes and set to work.
My wife and I tasted the originals, which I then modified based on our preferences and her feedback (the recipes below feature my tweaks). That's the great thing about making cocktails -- if they don't taste just the way you like, you just tweak them slightly.
Cucumber Mint Gin and Tonic
Gin used: Pink 47 (United Kingdom -- $32.99, Liquor Marts)
3 mint leaves
2 wheels cucumber
1 wheel lime
11/2 ounces gin
Lime juice to taste
Place the mint, cucumber and lime wheels in the bottom of a highball glass.
Muddle the ingredients (smash 'em up a bit to release the flavours) using the end of a wooden spoon or similar utensil.
Fill the glass with ice, and pour in the gin. Fill the rest of the glass with tonic water.
Add lime juice to taste (or don't). Garnish with a cucumber wheel.
Synopsis: The lightest in colour of the bunch, this was also the only cocktail of the four that isn't sweetened. Mint makes this even more refreshing than your standard G&T, but it's the cucumber that takes this to the next level. Based on a recipe found on Martha Stewart's website -- it's a good thing. My favourite of the four cocktails.
Bourbon used: Maker's Mark 46 (Kentucky, U.S. -- $43.99, Liquor Marts)
3 mint leaves
1 1/2-2 ounces bourbon
lime juice (to taste)
Place mint leaves and sugar in a tumbler. Add a splash of water. Muddle ingredients, add ice and bourbon.
Taste, and add lime juice if desired. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Synopsis: This is an old-timey drink from the southern states that doesn't call for lime juice -- but you may find it beneficial if you're looking for something with a little more tartness than your typical bourbon-based cocktail. A tweaked version of Esquire magazine's Kentucky Derby mint julep recipe.
Rum used: Rondiaz 93 Spiced Rum (Barbados -- $22.79, Liquor Marts)
3-4 mint sprigs
2 lime wheels
30 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar or cane sugar
2 oz spiced rum
Club soda/sparkling water
Place the mint, lime wheels and a splash of lime juice in a glass. Muddle ingredients. Add the brown sugar, rum and ice (crushed, shaved, or cubes) and stir.
Add club soda/sparkling water. Add more lime juice to taste. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Synopsis: I figured I'd try a couple of variations on the classic mojito -- this one calls for spiced or golden rum instead of plain old white rum, as well as brown/raw sugar instead of white sugar. Some recipes called for cola to be added, while others suggested sparkling wine -- I wouldn't be adverse to either. I used lime-flavoured sparkling water, which made the citrus component pretty intense.
Tequila used: Hornitos (Mexico -- $34.95, Liquor Marts)
3 mint leaves
3 lime wheels
1 1/2 ounces tequila
Club soda or sparkling water
Place the mint leaves, two lime wheels and a dash of sugar in a glass. Muddle ingredients.
Add tequila, ice (crushed, shaved or cubes) and stir. Add club soda/sparkling water.
Add lime juice to taste (if necessary). Garnish with a lime wheel.
Synopsis: Obviously, the twist here is using tequila instead of rum. The recipe I found suggested key limes, which I found too sweet -- I prefer the tartness of regular limes and/or lime juice, both of which I added on a second attempt.