41 Mojitos

The First Essential Scary Truth

It was a nightmare, just like the one where you have to speak naked in front of an audience or you can’t get in to take that test to finally get you out of high school.  However, this was really happening to me.  The printer kept going off, sending me drink tickets one after the other and every drink was the same – mojito after mojito after mojito.

When you work the service bar in any joint, you get used to making a bunch of the same cocktails over the course of a shift.  Maybe it’s the drink of the moment, see the Cosmopolitan and Sex and the City, or it’s just that someone overheard a name and said that sounds good. I have to try that.  Just like clothing and hairstyles, the herd mentality seems to a constant in the beverage world.  Usually, these drink runs last for ten or so cocktails or bottles of wine.  However, by the time service had ended, I made 41 mojitos.  Making 41 of any drink other than vodka soda/vodka tonic is flat out unheard of but to make 41 mojitos is bartenders the equivalent of being Sisyphus. 

Essentially, the mojito, invented in Cuba in either the 16th or 19th century depending on whom you talk to, is the Caribbean version of the mint julep.  The drink is labor intensive (for a bartender), taking an average of one minute to make instead of the usually five to ten seconds.  First, freshly picked mint, sugar or simple syrup and fresh limes are placed into a mixing glass and muddled together.  Then fresh ice and 4 or so ounces of rum is poured over the muddled mixture.  After shaking the drink thoroughly, it is strained into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice.  The drink is quite refreshing in tropical settings where you can watch the sun set late on a summer evening.  This night in Manhattan, however, the temperature was hovering around 24 degrees and it was the Saturday after Christmas.  I guess optimism the weather would break was in full bloom that 361st day in 2008.  Either that or the economy has taken such a toll that only a brutally sweet drink with an overt amount of sugar, sure to cause a hangover before dessert, will help ease the pain.

When I reflected on my odd shift to my friend and bartender Nick, he laughed at me.  “I love mojitos.  I spent a great weekend drinking those in Key West a few years back,” he waxed nostalgic as he poured my Guinness.

“Have you ever had to make 41 of the damn things in one night,” I asked.

“Whenever someone asks for one of those, I get to tell them I have no mint,” he smiled.

Some guys have all the luck, I thought.

The good thing about bartending is being able to forget what happened on your shift the second you leave the joint.  But my next two shifts, I made between 20-30 mojitos at a clip.  My right shoulder ached from pounding the mint and limes into submission with the muddler and my ears were ringing from the arguments I got into with various back waiters as to why it was taking a long time to get them their drinks.  I found the two captains who, between them, were responsible for a full third of the mojitos sales those days and we had a little chat.  I told them if they sold one more mojito, they should call their wives and tell them they were never coming home.  Still the printer churned out mojito after mojito so I changed my threat.  This time, I told them I’d pluck their nose hairs one strand at a time if they didn’t stop.  Again the printer went off, I looked and sure enough, the drink I was asked to make was a mojito.

What was the problem, was it me?  Had I angered the bartending Gods to the point where only the creation of a certain muddled drink for those who wanted to become Type II Diabetics could be my penance?  Although I am not superstitious, I still chanted, tossed chicken bones and prayed to Dylan Thomas, patron saint to bartenders and poetic drunks, for intersession on my behalf.  I just had my left shoulder repaired; I didn’t want to have to have the right one tuned up in rapid succession.

It didn’t work.  Once again, 20-30 mojitos were ordered on my next couple of shifts and my philosophical bent rises to the fore whenever the machine prints a ticket.  Maybe it is my lot in life to help those who wish to remove themselves from the gene pool in a pancreatic free way do so.  However, I have come to despise the weapon I am forced to use in my Darwinian assault on the drinkers of New York.  I find mojitos to be almost undrinkable, disgustingly sweet and a surefire way to lead one to injected insulin dependence.

Am I being an overtly cranky barman?  Perhaps, although I prefer to think of it as not being cranky or spiteful but creative in a way designed to end my wide-awake daymare.  I believe I am creating the next great artistic hatred to be on par with Lou Reed’s work and ‘Positively Fourth Street’ by Dylan.  Much like hating New York or Nixon is an art form to some, I now present the world with mojito hatred.  I hate the mojito and my nieces Mira and Bella hate the mojito.  In years to come, I know this hatred will bring us closer together.


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