Friday, December 10, 2010

New York's Best Mojito

Humans seem to have always been obsessed with finding and acknowledging the best of everything.  The best restaurant, the best moisturizer, the best singer, etc.  Even though we homo-sapiens all have individual likes and dislikes, we have some inherent need to compile our varied thoughts to find "the best".  Why?  I dunno.  But, I'm pretty much par for the course as far as this is concerned.  I use the "best" moisturizer, I long to dine at the "best" restaurants.  So . . . when a friend told me where to find the "best" mojitos in New York, you bet I high tailed it down to the East Village to see for myself.

Yuca Bar is located near Tompkins Square Park on Avenue A in the belly of the East Village (yep - you got that right - I schlepped all the way down there to try a mojito - yes I did).  Its rustic stone facade and hand painted walls perfectly compliment its "eclectic Pan-Latin fusion" menu and while the website's description for the restaurant sounds like one of those new age frou-frou fusion joints, my take was that it was much more homey and neighborhood-y than I would have expected.  And I loved it.  My first observation was that the crowd was fabulously varied and there was a general party atmosphere that permeated the joint - there was a large and boisterous group of people in the back of the restaurant cheering loudly in Spanish, a young hipster couple in the front window was surrounded by at least 6 empty mojito glasses, and our bartender was getting the life story of two thickly accented Scottish men beside us.

Victor and I hopped onto a bar stool and ordered two happy hour mojitos.  The curly-haired bartender went through a pretty lengthy process that included muddling mint, ice, limes, and sugar and shaking rum with ice, and after a few minutes, presented us with two very festively authentic-looking cocktails garnished with a straw-length chunk of raw sugarcane and sprigs of fresh mint.  For those of you that don't know, Cuba is the official birthplace of the mojito, a cocktail that is traditionally made with white rum, sugar cane syrup, mint, lime, and sparkling water (although the original Cuban recipe involves spearmint).  Most historian-types think that this drink had its origins in the 19th century when African slaves who worked in the Cuban sugarcane fields mixed cocktails with guarapo (sugarcane juice) after a long day in the fields.  Well, I have to say, whoever discovered it, thumbs up, because this mojito was fe-abulous!  A sweet slice of freshness and a cane of sugar to chew on to boot.  And at the happy hour price of $6, you seriously can't beat it with a stick (or a cane . . . of sugar)!

Victor and I perused the yummy-looking menu and ordered a shrimp ceviche and some mahi-mahi skewers (obviously, this was before my raw vegan adventure as well -  which is going very well so far, thank you).  It was all yummy-licious.  The ceviche was perfectly sweet with a spicy kick, the chips were crispy taro and sweet potato and the mahi, while not my favorite dish, had a glaze that I would love to have again, potentially on some ribs.  The food was just as joyously festive as the cocktails and the atmosphere.  We munched and, joining the fiesta vibe, ordered another mojito.

In short, on a cold and grey winter day, we took a little dinner vacation to a small town in Cuba by way of the East Village.  Subway fare: way cheaper than airfare to Cuba.  Was it the best mojito I had ever had?  Yep.  Best mojito ever made?  Probably not.  I dunno.  But does it really matter as long as you enjoy it?  Nope.  I'll definitely be back.  Well, after January.  (Rum, for your reference, is not a raw food.)  Beberse todo.  Disfrutar!