Tavern on the Green, New York City’s famous restaurant set in the middle of Central Park, evokes grand images. For years, the Crystal Room and the patio adorned with twinkling lights was a favorite haunt of various actors, politicians, and musicians. John Lennon hosted many of his son’s birthday parties at the acclaimed restaurant, and Grace Kelly spent evenings wining and dining there. While living in New York City in the late 1990s, we set aside a morning to experience brunch at Tavern on the Green with some visiting friends. One of my friends, who travelled to Cuba several times, insisted that we try these fabulous drinks she had fallen for during her travels. Mojitos. The tartness of the limes, mixed with the clean flavor of the mint highlighted the tropical zing of the white rum. No wonder Hemingway fell for these refreshing drinks. While Tavern on the Green is no longer in existence (as of 2009) and mojitos have taken the cocktail world by storm since my first sip, I have fond memories of sitting under the same trees where Grace Kelly may have once dined, savoring my mojito and relishing the company of dear friends.
While the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might apply when referring to this traditional cocktail, I had a piece of watermelon in my fridge that was begging to live another day. Fresh mint was muddled with sugar and lime juice in a pitcher to release the natural oil from the mint. The smell of the fresh herb gently floated from the pitcher, balancing the scent of the tart limes. Once the watermelon was added, along with the rum, the drink turned from a murky liquid to a pinkish-red hue that was begging to be garnished with a miniature paper umbrella. I don’t know that Uncle Ernest would have approved, but it made me feel as though I was back under the twinkling lights in the middle of Central Park.
Place 3 cups of 1-inch watermelon cubes in a blender.
In a small pitcher, combine 12 medium to large fresh mint leaves, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle the ingredients to release the oils from the mint. Take care not to muddle to the point where the leaves fall apart.
- 3 cups ½-inch cubes watermelon
- 12 medium to large fresh mint sprigs
- 6 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 oz. light rum
- 4 lime slices
- 4 mint sprigs
- Place watermelon cubes in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- In a small pitcher, combine fresh mint leaves, sugar, and fresh lime juice. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle the ingredients to release the oils from the mint. Take care not to muddle to the point where the leaves fall apart. Pour rum and the watermelon puree into the pitcher and stir gently.
- Fill four tall glasses (such as Collins glasses) with ice and divide the mojito amongst the glasses. Garnish with lime slices and mint sprigs, and serve immediately.