Virgin Mojito Review

A taste of sunshine in winter.

A taste of sunshine in winter.  Enjoy this brightly flavoured drink on winter days and think of sunny beaches.

Last February and we had the biggest snow fall of that winter. Snow was piled higher than my car in the front of the yard from all the snow blowers removing the snow from the roads, and while it’s all so pretty – there were days I dreamed of summer. This year our family headed south to the Dominican Republic for Christmas and my dreams of summer beaches became a reality.

Ah sandy beaches. Where one can sit enjoying the warmth of the sun rays and sip on a cool refreshing drink. Something exotic? Like a Mojito!

Last year we started trying ideas around a non-alcoholic Mojito option so the whole family could enjoy the taste of summer. We found that putting together a drink that is normally rum and club soda based was more challenging than we anticipated. According to food.com a Virgin Mojito simply uses the club soda or switches it out for ginger ale and hold the rum.

Does it work? Well… Sort of.

The resulting drink was approved by my two girls, but I found the flavour of the mint less noticeable than I expected. The drink ended up tasting mostly like a lime pop, slightly sweet and pretentious, but not something that says “Wow! This was worth the expensive fresh mint leaves I drove 2 hours out of town for!”

What to do to fix this… well the drink called for the mint muddled with lime and sugar before adding a simple syrup and ginger ale. So what if the mint was incorporated into the syrup? Or how about more mint mixed in? (The recipe called for 15 mint leaves – but hey why not double it!) Since I didn’t have anymore mint and wasn’t about to venture back out onto the highway for another 2 hour drive to get some we left it at that… what if?

Online, other recipes included apple juice (BBC and Wikihow), lemons or lemonade (Salisfood.com and  BBC), and lemon-lime soda was suggested instead of ginger ale or club soda (Wikihow and Salisfood.com). But all sites I found suggested that only 8-10 mint leaves was necessary. In our test, I found that ginger ale’s flavour did not work well in the drink as it competed with the mint and lime.  I would not recommend using it in further recipes. Again we were left with … what if?

So, this Christmas, I had the tropical drink experts make me up a virgin mojito (and a “leaded” one) and discovered the secret to a successful summer drink. MORE.

Yep. MORE mint, MORE lime and MORE sugar = MORE kick. Watching the bartender make up my order I noticed that they used chopped mint and muddled that into a sugary syrup then topped it up with something akin to lemonade. I found the tropical virgin version to be less lime tasting and have less kick than I expected but it had plenty of taste which my attempts at home had lacked. (The “leaded” version had plenty of kick due to the addition of rum).

It was time to test out my theory and make a High Octane Version. Loaded with fresh lime wedges, lime sweet and sour mix, and about 3 cups of chopped fresh mint, I headed over to our family New Year’s Eve party. “Who want’s a mojito?”

The result? Yummy! The drink matched the bright taste and kick of it’s adult brother and was enjoyed by teens and adults alike. When I left the party a few hours later my niece was sad to see me go – because the drinks were leaving with me. Success? I think so!

Virgin “High Octane” Mojito

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 lime wedges (1/4 lime)
  • 2 oz lime sweet and sour mix (see below)
  • ice
  • 4 oz 7-up (or lemon lime soda)
Procedure

Muddle chopped mint, lime wedges and sweet and sour mix in bottom of a cocktail shaker by crushing the limes to release the juices and pressing the mixture about 4-5 times onto the bottom of the shaker. Add ice and shake once or twice. Pour in 7-up, stir and pour contents into a tall glass (not all the mint will make it to the glass but that’s ok). Top with 7-up if needed, Garnish with a lime twist or mint sprig and serve.

My Thoughts

The 7-Up takes the place of lemonade in the tropical version but adds fizz and sweetness lacking in the original recipe tested using club soda. The addition of lime sweet and sour mix replaced the need for a simple syrup and sugar while maintaining the intensity of the lime taste.

Using chopped mint and fresh limes introduce a bitterness (Wikihow explains that tearing or bruising the mint releases chlorophyll which is bitter, and the lime rinds also have a bitter element). Many cocktails call for bitters to balance the sweetness and allow the drinks flavours to come through and this is the case here.

The chopped mint leaves give a stronger mint flavour, the fresh limes lend a sharp kick to the drink and the sweetness of the 7-up and sugary sweet and sour mix create exactly the taste needed for this drink to compete head on with it’s “leaded” brother. I did find I suck up a bit of chopped mint through my straw – so if you don’t like that – I would recommend straining the drink before serving.


Lime  Sweet & Sour Mix

This version uses only lime juice for it’s sour component. I used bottled lime juice for this as I was adding fresh limes into the final cocktail. While fresh lime juice is always nicer, however since this recipe is cooked it is not essential. This recipe is not as sour as a standard sweet and sour mix as the ratio of sugar to juice is higher.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lime juice

Procedure:

Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan and allow to come to a gentle boil. Allow to simmer 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Cool and store until needed.


Kid-o-metre 5/5 Kids loved it.
Taste: 5/5  Nailed it!
Simplicity: 5/5 Simple and easy to make.
Ingredient finding: 3/5 Mint is not available locally and this recipe calls for a whole lot – I was able to purchase bunches like parsley at a decent price when passing through a larger town.

After Dinner Mint Shooter

After Dinner Mint Shooter: Liquid candy.

After Dinner Mint Shooter: Liquid candy.

When I was creating layers shooters with the Christmas Holidays in mind, my husband requested I come up with something reminiscent of an after dinner mint.

In researching what was commonly done for this, because this has been done before with liqueurs, I found that the common ingredients were layers of chocolate liqueurs (either white creme de cacao, swiss chocolate almond liqueur, white chocolate liqueur), creme de menthe and baileys irish cream. One recipe suggested omitting the chocolate for a second layer of coffee liqueur called Tia Maria.

Knowing my audience, a stronger chocolate component was called for. Something truer to the original dinner mint. I had three options: cacao nib syrup (made with unsweetened cacao nibs), chocolate syrup (made with cocoa cocoa powder), and drinking chocolate (made with semi sweet chocolate) . Which would be closest to the true flavour of the chocolate candy?

First up: Cacao Nib Syrup. Our thoughts… the Cacao Nib lend a chocolate taste, but also a bit acidic. Not the right fit for this drink.

Next: chocolate syrup. Too strong!

Lastly: Drinking chocolate. Just right.

After dinner mint shooter

This is our favourite of the bunch we tested.

Ingredients:
Procedure:

Layer the drinks in the order above, starting with the mint and ending with the cream. Serve.

My Thoughts:

This was made for my hubby. What did he think. “Just what it should taste like” were his exact words. Seems I got it right. The kids loved it and I think that the more subtle flavour of the chocolate matched the sweet and light flavour of the mint syrup.

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Simplicity: 4/5
Ingredient finding: 5/5

The Elixir Review

Rosemary Citrus Spritzer

Rosemary Citrus Spritzer

When I first started working on virgin drinks, at the beginning of the summer, I made a bunch of drinks that existed online, to see what had been done, what I liked, and what concepts were out there. I found a site called The Kitchn where they discussed three amazing non alcoholic drinks served at a restaurant in New York called  Eleven Madison Park.

Now I am on the other side of the continent from New York, and much more north y’know. So of the three drinks, only one used ingredients that I could find in my local store – or heck anywhere close by for that matter. This drink was called the Elixir.

Using my pre-created syrups, some fresh mint from a friends garden and one additional syrup that I made for the drink, I whipped up a batch and served it to my family. Kids, adults, the whole lot of us all loved it without exception.

Here is the link to the recipe for Elixir. Thank you to Sam Lipp of Eleven Madison Park’s who shared these creations with The Kitchn’s team who shared it with the world.

Go check it out for yourself here!

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 5/5  This guy is a pro y’know
Simplicity: 4/5  Two syrups to make, but not hard to whip up.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 Even up north we can enjoy this New York taste.

Simple Syrups

simple syrup making is pretty easy: sugar, water and any flavouring you want.

Simple Syrup: a key ingredient.

As I work my way through recipes for drinks, both common and unusual, simple syrups keep showing up as a key ingredient. Simple syrups, like alcoholic infusions, can be flavoured with herbs, spices or fruit and add sweetness and flavour to cocktails, lemonades, iced teas, coffees, fizzes and sodas.

When I started working to create virgin drinks with similar tastes to the original alcoholic drinks, I found that simple syrups were a way of creating flavours that imitated some of the sweeter liqueurs like cinnamon and peppermint schnapps, Curaçao, and even Kahlua. Unlike their originals, these syrups lack the bite or kick that the alcohol provides, and will be sweeter. This means that in order to adapt recipes less syrup should be used or the drink will become simply too sweet for most palates.

In my testings and trials of drink making I have found that adding bitters, soda water or more sour beverages can counteract the sweetness of the simple syrup. The key, though, is to make the flavouring in the simple syrup strong enough that the amount needed is halved in comparison to a liqueur, without loosing flavour.

Simple Syrup – basic recipes

Ingredients:
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
Procedure:

Measure water and sugar into a pot and heat at medium high. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved in the water and the water turns clear.  Turn off heat and allow syrup to cool. Store in container, well sealed, in cool location.

My Thoughts:

Simple syrup recipes are easy to find online. The basics are that the more sugar the stronger the syrup but the components are the same: Sugar and water.

Some call a one to one ratio thick or rich simple syrup as does What’s Cooking America others refer to a rich simple syrup as a stronger sugar concentration While Allrecipes  suggests that a 1:1 ratio is known as simple syrup. . About Food suggests a rich simple syrup is 2:1 ratio. Whatever it’s called there is four common ratios. 1:1 sugar to water; 2:1 sugar to water; and 1:2 sugar to water; and 1:3 sugar to water.

I find that the stronger syrups are better for more sour or bitter combinations such as dark or semi sweet chocolate, coffee, lemons, grapefruit and raspberries. More dilute syrups work best for drinks where multiple syrups and strong juices will be used without diluting the drink with soda water or use of bitters.

Simple syrups can also be made with flavoured or alternate sugar sources. Brown sugar makes a pleasant and darker tasting simple syrup, and caramelizing white sugar then introducing the water changes the flavour of the syrup to introduce darker flavours into your drinks. I provided the recipe for carmel syrup in my post all about apples here as it takes a few more steps and some practice to get right.

You can also find how I make my coffee syrup which I use at half strength instead of kahlua from my previous post used in my version of Carmel Apple-Disiac, and my cinnamon heavy syrup recipe here as part of my recipe for apple pie shooters.


Orange Simple Syrup

This is a wonderful bright tasting syrup that is infused with the essences of orange zest. The resulting syrup is clear and slightly orange in colour.

Ingredients:
  • Orange zest from two oranges
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cup sugar
Procedure:

Heat water in pot on medium high and add orange zest, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep half hour. Return to medium high heat and add sugar. Bring back to a low boil and cook until sugar is dissolved and no crystals are left on the bottom. Remove from heat, cool and pour into container for storage. Leave rinds in place to continue to infuse. Store in fridge until use and strain rinds as used.

Mint Simple Syrup

Ingredients:
  • Peppermint leaves – chopped (about half cup)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
Procedure:

Heat water to boil in pot and add peppermint leaves – allow to simmer 5 minutes then turn off heat and allow to steep up to 1 hour. Strain leaves from water, keeping the infused liquid, and return peppermint water to medium high heat. Add sugar and dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and taste liquid for strength. If liquid feels too weak, add more peppermint leaves and allow to infuse for a few days in the syrup. If desired add a drop or two of green food colouring.

My Thoughts:

I didn’t have a fresh source of peppermint leaves when I first created this recipe. In order to “cheat” I simply added a few drops of real peppermint extract. Careful to taste the recipe as you add more mint – peppermint is very strong and you can end up with toothpaste floured syrup instead of something wonderful for drink making purposes.


Depending on how often you make a certain drink, or use a flavoured syrup it may be better for you to have the basic recipe for sweetness and add flavour other ways. In many cases I have chosen to make a simple syrup and add flavourings by muddling them into the drink instead of infusing the ingredients into a number of syrups and then storing these for later use.

Storing multiple simple syrups can take up space and be expensive if you choose to procure fancy bottles for your liquids to reside. I keep some of my most used syrups on hand – in fancy bottles- cause it looks much cooler when mixing drinks then pulling out multiple plastic Ziplock tubs or old pickle jars. But the majority of my syrups are stored in the cheapest containers I can find and reside in an old fridge in the basement for when I need them.