My first experience with a mixed drink was a frozen strawberry daiquiri, fruity and sweet and slushy and icy cold, the rum leaving a warm trail down my throat. Never mind how old I was (very young) but I was in Mazatlán, and a group of us (very young) students were at Señor Frog's, where some of us (not me) went every night. Drinking and eating chips and bobbing along to the loud music. (It was happy hour, and the waiter presented me with two strawberry daiquiries, one of which I handed over to a helpful classmate because I couldn't manage two drinks). I went home feeling warm and happy in the night air, full of chips and salsa, riding home in one of those pulmonias, which are little open taxis that look a bit like golf carts. That was the last time I had a daiquiri.
Years went by, years during which I drank the good wine my dad collected in the cellar but nothing else, none of those parties where underage kids drank beer and whatever liquor they could get their hands on. College brought margaritas and piña coladas, dinners with my friends in chain restaurants with frosty blue drinks garnished with slices of pineapple and strawberries. (Aside from those years I studied Russian and occasionally downed a shot or two of ice-cold vodka along with a bowl of sour-cream-laced pelmeni or a plate of blini, but that is another story that I have told before). I grew up, continued to drink good wine, later discovered single-malt scotches, learned to avoid fruity mixed drinks, except for the Red Roosters D. always made for parties, a slushy combination of cranberry and orange juices and vodka, or the margaritas we made for lunch parties. And then I discovered mojitos, and nothing was ever the same again.
The mojito is somewhat similar to the mint julep; the former is made with rum, and the latter with bourbon. Having never acquired a taste for bourbon, I have never had any desire to try a mint julep, but when the weather is hot and I am tired and I want something that will send a wave of coolness down my body from the top of my head to the very tip of my toes, I want a mojito. I want to sit at a bar, in a cool, dark cave of a room, my bottom firmly on the stool, crushing the mint in my glass with my straw, listening to the ice cubes go clink clink clink as I take a sip, no, not a sip, but a long swallow that sends a tingle down my spine and wipes away all the exhaustions of the day. I want to finish my drink and eat my dinner and talk with my friends about 'shoes and ships and sealing-wax, and cabbages, and kings,' as night falls and the darkness blots away the cares that knot my shoulders and twist my soul.
But tonight I have none of that, no time for drinks and friends and cold frosted glasses of mojitos. Instead I come home and find a box - actually several boxes - and when I peel away the tape and open one the scent of limes and mint and rum comes to greet me, the scent of a mojito-scented candle made by Malin + Goetz, which I unwrap and light, setting it on one of the small tables in my living room. I start a movie, catch up on my reading, let the smell of mojitos fill the open rooms of my apartment, and it is almost as good as drinking one. Almost.