Mint is one of those plants that walks the line between “cultivar” and “weed” in the garden. Its tenacity is hard to beat with its speedy growth and voracious appetite for territory. Left to its own devices, mint will quickly take over a garden. Rather than stressing about it, however, you should embrace its rapid reproduction and use it to your advantage. In other words, use mint more often. (Or if you’re truly terrified that mint will overthrow your world, you can timidly dip your toe into that pool by growing it in pots. It’s flexible like that.)
Today’s use comes from what encouraged me to grow mint in the first place: mojitos. When The Big Guy and I sipped our first mojitos 3 years ago, we were instantly hooked. We also quickly learned that buying bunches of mint at the grocery store so we could make them at home would bankrupt us, so we started growing our own. In pots. Because our yard isn’t our own to give over to minty madness. We deal with it.
Mojitos are best sweetened with simple syrup, as sugar does not dissolve well in cold liquids. Think about those iced coffees from Dunkin’ Donuts: there’s always a crunchy layer of sugar in the bottom of your cup. Granulated sugar doesn’t play nicely when the mixer is cold. Simple syrup, on the other hand, was made for cool drinks, incorporating smoothly without any grittiness.
Simple syrup is just as it sounds–simple to make. You take a one-to-one ratio of granulated sugar to water, dump them into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, and bring them for to a boil for a bit. I generally go about 3 minutes of rolling boil, but I also whing it. I’m crazy like that. Don’t let it boil too long, though, otherwise you’ll be on your way to making caramel (so if it starts turning brown, no fear–let it brown up a little more and enjoy the caramel you just made–you can always start over). Simple syrup will keep in the fridge in a clean, covered mason jar for a month or two.
I recently decided that infusing the simple syrup with mint would add a really nice kick to mojitos–because, as you all know, you can’t get too much mint in a mojito. After you take your sauce pan off the stove to cool, throw in a big bunch of (lightly rinsed) mint. Really big. Don’t worry about pulling leaves off the stems or mincing or anything. Just throw it in whole, stir it around so it’s covered with syrup, and let it be. Leave it in there til the syrup is cooled and ready to be jarred. Then pick out the stems and leaves (see, leaving it whole makes this part all that much easier!) and discard them. Voila! Mint-infused simple syrup!
Mojitos are great, but what else can you use your mint-infused simple syrup for? Homemade marshmallows, in place of the corn syrup. Brushed on sponge or pound cake to keep it moist. Sweetening iced tea. Making sorbet. I’m sure you can come up with some of your own great ideas for it, as well!
- 1.5 oz mint-infused simple syrup
- 1 oz lime juice
- tonic water or club soda (whichever you prefer)
- a few sprigs of mint
Fill a glass with ice. Pour over the ice the simple syrup, lime juice, and top off with tonic water/club soda. Stir. Garnish with mint sprigs.
For extra minty flavor, you can also muddle 8 or so mint leaves in the bottom of the glass in the simple syrup (basically, crushing the mint in the syrup with a pestle or the back of a spoon to release the oils–I use my mini tart shaper for this job) before adding the ice, lime juice, and tonic water/club soda.
If you want this to be a “real” mojito, add 1.5 oz of white rum. Sadly, I have to be happy with the virgin kind for the time being. C’est la vie.
Because I just can’t get enough of this one…