While the sauce called mojo originated in the Canary Islands, varying forms of it are popular in Cuba, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. But for Sable Kitchen & Bar bartender Pito Rodriguez, the truest form is made in Puerto Rico by his aunt Titi. Rodriguez says that Matthew Jannotta, the Soho House Chicago bartender who challenged him to make a cocktail with mojo, visited Puerto Rico with him a couple years ago and got a chance to try his aunt's mojo, which consists simply of cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and salt.
"I actually called my aunt when I got challenged with this and was like, 'Titi, how do you make your mojo?'" Rodriguez says. "I was thinking, how the hell do I use mojo in a cocktail?" He settled on a tincture, which is usually one ingredient infused into neutral grain spirits. In this case, though, Rodriguez used them all apart from the olive oil, subbing in roasted garlic (in mojo it would typically be raw but he wanted to make it less sharp tasting). A sliver of habanero pepper added warmth—"but not spice," Rodriguez says. "Puerto Ricans generally don't like a lot of heat."
For the spirit he considered tequila, thinking that its vegetal qualities would fit well with the vegetal mojo. But the sweetness of rum turned out to be a better match—happily for Rodriguez, since the spirit fit right into the Puerto Rican theme of his cocktail, which he dubbed I Found Mi Mojo. "Essentially it's a daiquiri," he says. For the sweetener he used spiced pineapple syrup; the only other ingredient is lime juice. "I get the best of both worlds: the mojo and the daiquiri," he says. "Two things I'm very fond of."
The I Found Mi Mojo cocktail by Pito Rodriguez of Sable Kitchen & Bar
"Since I got racially profiled with mojo," Rodriguez says, "I'm challenging Christopher Marty at Best Intentions with matzo."
I Found Mi Mojo
.75 oz lime juice
.75 oz spiced pineapple syrup*
2 oz Don Q Rum
.25 oz mojo tincture**
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice; shake and strain over a large ice cube. Garnish with a cilantro leaf.
2 quarts water
2 quarts sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 vanilla bean (sliced lengthwise)
2 diced pineapples
Make simple syrup and add cinnamon, star anise, and vanilla bean. Allow to cool to room temperature and add pineapple. Allow to sit for 24 hours and fine strain.
8 cups Everclear, 190 proof
43 grams minced cilantro
28 grams finely chopped Caribbean sweet peppers
1/16 of one habanero pepper
3 roasted garlic cloves
Heavy pinch of salt
Let sit for four hours and strain out the solids.