Sweet, cool and refreshing, mint is the most commonly used herb leaf in cocktails – think juleps and mojitos –, and is easily available at the local store or a cinch to grow at home.
You might be surprised to hear that there are over 7,500 different varieties of mint (the Lamiaceae family of plants) to be found across the world.
The most widely found mints in Europe include spearmint – also known as common mint (that’s probably the one you’ll find bars using for your drink) – and lemon [balm] mint, but within the wider family you can choose from chocolate mint, banana mint, apple mint and ginger mint, amongst many, many more. As the names suggest, each combines a mintiness with another flavour thus allowing lots of opportunities for experimentation in cocktails.
When muddling mint in a glass for a cocktail (for example with sugar and lime for a mojito), you want to bruise the leaves to let out the essential oils for the minty flavour, however you don’t want to mash or shred the leaves. The veins in the leaves contain chlorophyll, which tastes bitter when released thus leaving your mojito tasting grassy rather than fresh and minty. The trick is to push down with your muddler and twist gently until you smell the mint… then stop!
Muddlers are easy to find at your local cooking equipment or houseware store, but if you don’t have one at home then you could easily use the end of a rolling pin instead.
If you grow mint at home, then grow in a pot rather in the soil, as it spreads quickly and can be difficult to control. Also, you might be interested to know that its a massive deterrent to rodents… cocktail-loving squirrels will run a mile from peppermint!