Handle The Proof: Breaking The Mojito Rules

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This current generation of American drinkers couldn't really care less about tradition. They shirk the classic cocktails in favor of trendy new flavors: pomegranate martinis, green tea margaritas, acai vodka and tonics or whatever the anti-oxidant of the month happens to be.

Despite my frustration with such fads, I must admit to a quiet suspicion. Bartenders in the Gilded Age really didn't have bottles of pomegranate juice to play around with. Nor could they pour strawberry puree into a frozen drink machine so the Astors could enjoy a swirled margarita after the show. But who's to say drink mixers of the past wouldn't have succumbed to the same creative impulses?

Maybe--just maybe--mojitos were meant to be frozen and stirred with muddled berries all along.

Jason Quiroga apparantly thinks so. The mojito variants he's put together at Lazare are...how shall I put this?...annoying. Yeah, that's it--annoying: a frozen slush from fresh mint, fresh lime, organic cane sugar and rum mixed with blackberries and raspberries picked up at local farmer's markets forming an abstract swirl so emasculating yet so damn good you want one.

You want one even if it means women will giggle at you.

Unlike so many "real" mojitos served in this town, Lazare's slurpee version hits you with vibrant mint and a surprisingly calm burst of citrus. There's little of the overt sweetness that ruins other cocktails. The berries provide textural breaks in the slush, as well as some richer flavors.

Quiroga shops the markets a few days each week for the fruits and herbs that provide such intensity. Last week he picked up canteloupe and some cucumber, using slices of both to infuse light Bacardi rum. When shaken into a traditional mojito recipe, the result is something fresher and more complex in flavor than the old-school version. The cucumber alone contributes a noticeably refreshing bite and bitter undertone.

Don't get me wrong, I still hate fads interfering with classic cocktails. And frozen drinks are just blatantly wrong. But...well...these are good. And you can convince yourself it's OK because he's following local-seasonal rules, right?

Now I've got to go cover my tracks and pretend I never admitted any of this.

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