The mojito is a traditional Cuban cocktail invented more than a century ago, but many Milwaukee bartenders make a mean one to this day. Sweet, tangy and refreshing, the mojito -- a relative of the mint julep and allegedly Ernest Hemingway's favorite drink -- is a mix of rum, club soda and/or Sprite, lime, sugar and whole, fresh mint leaves that are suspended in the drink, giving it a slightly swampy look.
The mojito has gained popularity in recent years -- so much so that even chains like Applebee's are serving pre-mixed versions -- but local establishments have mastered the more labor-intensive mojito that involves "muddling" or gently crushing the mint with other ingredients (depending on the recipe) before adding the ice, soda and booze.
Here are a few local bars and lounges with marvelous mojitos, and add your own favorites by using the talkback feature.
Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh Ave.
Bacardi Limon, bar syrup, dash of bitters, splash of sour, five (yes, five!) lime wedges and fresh mint leaves are the fixings for Art Bar's signature mojito. It's served in a pint glass and modestly priced at $6. "You need the balance of sweet with the right amount of twang," says Art Bar owner Don Krause.
Bar Lulu, 2261 S. Howell Ave.
Lulu's Paul Kennedy calls himself "Edward Muddlerhands" for a reason. This mojito master claims to have muddled more mojitos than anyone else in Milwaukee. He serves his Cuban concoctions in a pint glass for $6. "We use fresh everything," he says. "I always recommend a light rum. Mojitos made with dark rum look like something cleaned out of a garbage disposal."
Club Havana, 789 N. Jefferson St.
At $5 a piece, Club Havana has the cheapest mojito in the city, but bartender Mike Kozimski -- aka "The Happy Hour Guy" -- assures they don't skimp on anything. Havana's mojito features fresh lime, mint leaf, sugar water, Jamaican rum and seltzer. "People have said I make them the best in the city," says Kozminski. Club Havana has an outdoor patio and an open-air porch to further that balmy Cuban feeling.
Cubanita's, 728 N. Milwaukee St.
It's no surprise that the Cuban mojito is Cubanita's best-selling drink. Aside from the classic, they offer mango, raspberry, strawberry, coconut or orange -- all made with fresh fruit purees. "We make them from scratch and very traditional -- the same way they make them in Havana," says owner Marta Bianchini. "There's a little trick to it, but I can't reveal it." $6.
Elsa's, 833 N Jefferson St.
Elsa's serves a classic mojito, but according to bartender Anton Carter, they'll make a strawberry mojito on the fly. Elsa's recipe calls for ginger ale instead of the usual seltzer or lemon-lime soda. "Muddling really well is the key to a great mojito so everything is perfectly fused together," says Carter. $8.
Hemingway's, 626 S. 6th St.
The mojito is Hemingway's signature drink, and they sell tons of them every night. They mix them with all the usual ingredients -- white rum, sugar syrup, fresh lime juice, mint and a splash of seltzer on top. Hemingway's bartenders say what many have said before: "The key to a good mojito is fresh ingredients."
Osteria del Mondo, 1028 E. Juneau Ave.
Osteria's mojito is similar to Cubanita's (Marc and Marta Bianchini own both ventures) but it is a bit smaller, with 1 1/2 ounces of rum instead of two. The Osteria mojito is always mixed with Appleton rum from Jamaica and costs $6. Salud!
Sol Fire, 2014 N. Farwell Ave.
Like their menu items, Sol Fire's mojitos are all quality, baby. They offer a regular mojito ($6), mango mojito ($6.50) and "El Mojito" made with Bacardi Select for $7. Looks like Sol Fire's patio isn't solely for margarita consumption any more.
Trocadero, 1758 N. Water St.
Trocadero serves four different mojitos: traditional, mango, pineapple and mango-pineapple made with fresh ingredients and rail rum. Served in a "footed" sangria glass, they run between $7 and $8. "A great mojito has a lot of booze but you can't taste any of it," says server Tim Knope. Trocadero has "Mojito Mondays" with $5 mojitos all day and night.
The Wicked Hop, 345 N. Broadway
The 12-oz. Wicked Hop mojito is made with the usual fresh ingredients, and includes the sweet detail of being served with a sugar cane. "It's all about the muddling," says one Wicked Hop bartender.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.