50 Shots of America–Nevada

The Mojavito

The Mojavito

Now that the move is complete and the bar is fully unpacked, it’s time to return to our drinking tour of America with state number 36: Nevada (which is Spanish for snow-covered, named after the Sierra Nevada mountains).

Originally part of the Utah Territory, the predominantly non-Mormon section that is today’s Nevada broke off from their eastern brethren in March, 1861, became a state on October 31, 1864, (just squeaking in with enough time to help re-elect Lincoln as President and doing so by telegraphing their entire state constitution from Culver City to Washington, DC), and did some re-drawing of their state’s southern boundary in May, 1866, when gold was found in the then-Arizona Territory. Good thing, too, because Las Vegas, Arizona just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

And speaking of Vegas, turns out that gambling was legalized after the Great Depression as a temporary measure to help bolster the state’s flagging economy. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who suggested outlawing it would be laughed out of the state!

There’s no Last Call in Nevada, at least not by law; alcohol can be purchased at any hour of the day or night and bottles can be purchased at grocery and convenience stores as well as dedicated liquor stores (not just beer and wine like most places). Which leads us to this week’s drink.


1/2 Key Lime**, cut into 2 wedges
1 sprig Sage, stem removed
3/4 oz Gin
1 oz Club Soda

Muddle the lime and sage in the bottom of a shaker until the sage is well-mashed and fragrant. Add ice and the gin and shake like a tumbleweed crossing the plains. Strain into a chilled cordial glass and top with club soda.

Now, seeing as how Nevada is primarily dry, arid desert, a sweet drink just wouldn’t do (in alcohol, dry is the opposite of sec, or sweet). And because of the Pinyon Juniper forests in the Great Basin desert (which sounds like it would be at the bottom of the state when, actually, it encompasses much of the north and central area), I’m going with a dry gin as the base spirit. Nevada is known as the Sagebrush State so my first thought was a sage infusion but, well, that takes too long for a good mix and muddling is far quicker. Suddenly, this is sounding a lot like a Mojito (which sounds an awful lot like the Mojave desert that does occupy the southern third of the state), so that’s when the lime and club soda came over to play. The end result is a very tart, refreshing drink that would be a perfect quencher on a hot summer’s day no matter where in the world you are (well, okay, Northern hemisphere at the very least–those below the Equator save it for the warm winters).

One final bit of trivia for the day:

Ever wonder why the CSI franchise started in Vegas? It might have a little something to do with Nevada’s 5-year reign as the most dangerous state in the country (though if that were the sole reason, I think we would have had CSI: New Orleans before Miami or New York***).

*pronounced mo-ha-VEE-toe; whether you pronounce the ‘a’ as in bad (as is the correct way to pronounce Nevada) or as in father is entirely up to you

**I used key limes because they are small and this is a small drink. A single wedge (quarter) of a standard lime should be plenty. If you want a very tart lime drink with a touch of the other flavors, go ahead and use the whole Key Lime (or half a regular one).

***Turns out there was a decision to be made, just before Katrina, between a CSI: New Orleans and CSI: New York–go figure!

The Mojito


This Cuban drink is currently experiencing its second wind among the cocktail elite, with good reason. It’s tart, refreshing and nice to look at with the muddled mint swirling around the glass.

A Mojito is basically lime, mint and rum topped by club soda or sparkling water. In order to release the oils in the mint, a muddler (kinda like a cross between a pestle and a meat mallet) is used to bruise and break up the leaves without destroying their delicacy. (While the back of a wooden spoon can also be used, an actual muddler isn’t very expensive and can also be used to muddle fruits for sangria, lemonades and other beverages.)

While a good start, sugar (or sugar syrup) is also added in the muddling stage (pre-rum). There seems to be a bit of division between what is best: sugar or syrup. Anyone whose grown up ordering iced tea in restaurants where only unsweetened is available knows full well that regular sugar does not dissolve easily in cold liquids. It may give the muddler more purchase on the mint leaves and seem like the best course of action, you’re just not going to get much sweetening from it. Even knowing this, I still tried recipes using both sugar and sugar syrup and found my hunch to be correct. Leave the sugar for rimming the glass and use a 1:1 simple syrup in your drink.

Even with the syrup, a classic Mojito is much more tart than sweet and I prefer my drinks both tart AND sweet. While in Orlando last year, the Ale House near my brother’s apartment was serving Pineapple Mojitos and it was a divine drink. Tart and sweet and very drinkable. Of course, when the Mojito came up on my list, I knew I needed to recreate that yummy version at home.

CHF Pineapple Mojito

1/4 of a Lime, lengthwise
1 oz Simple syrup
5-7 Mint leaves
2 oz Pineapple rum
Pineapple juice

In a medium glass with a heavy base, place the lime, simple syrup and mint leaves and muddle until the lime is juiced and the mint is a little broken up. Fill with ice and then top with the rum and juice. Stir and sip in contented tropical bliss.

I’m not really a big fan of club soda–to me it tastes like stale water and why would I want to drink that? Consequently, it’s left out of my version of the Mojito. If you wanted to thin it out a bit, a la the classic drink, use about an ounce of pineapple juice and then fill with club soda or sparkling water.

When making Mojitos for a crowd, Stirrings makes a tasty mixer version that just needs rum and club soda. I’ve been known to use tonic water instead of club soda and find even just the mix and the tonic water make a very fresh drink on their own, no rum required.