Friday, September 20, 2013

Magical Mojitos....

The summer is winding down and we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate one of the last 90 degree days in Chicago than with an ice cold mojito.

Watermelon Mojito - garnished with a watermelon spear and mint leaf

A mojito is potentially a very dangerous drink. If it’s made just right, it tastes so good that you aren’t aware of all the rum inside… until it’s too late. Of course, depending upon your schedule and your plans, a bit of rum may not be the worst thing in the world.

This shot was inspired by what we assumed would be the last 90 degree day in Chicago this year. We went out to lunch, sat outside on a patio, played some bags, and enjoyed some mojitos in mason jars. What a perfect end to the season.

When setting up this shot we wanted to show a cold, refreshing drink to toast the end of a beautiful summer. In lighting, we wanted an outdoor feel so we had to create a sky and a sun. We placed a huge flat high above our set, toward the left side, and shined a large point source through it, with no modifiers on the light. This gave us our sky and the light of a partly cloudy day, but that wasn't enough, we needed some directional light from our sun. So we brought in another point-light source from the back left, a little lower than our sky light. That gave our sun light some direction, and also reflected nicely on the ice in the jar. As you would expect, the shot was very contrasty, so we brought in a white card on the right, very close to our jar, just outside the frame. This card bounced some of that sun’s light back onto the jar and opened up the lighting.

Over all, the lighting was fairly simple and highlighted all aspects that we wanted to accentuate.

Mint Mojito - garnished with a lime and torn mint leaves
We lit this mojito almost exactly the way we lit the watermelon mojito. The difference between these shots was that we dropped the camera angle to show more of the mint inside the jar and brought a soft light from behind to add to our sky light. The addition of the soft light made the scene a bit more flat, as though more clouds had rolled in, making the mojito itself the superhero.

Merriam Webster defines mojito as a cocktail made of rum, sugar, mint, lime juice and soda water (only one of the recipes we used included soda water). But where is the art? Where is the finesse and creativity? Here it is:


Watermelon Mojito
For 6 glasses

30 fresh mint leaves, reserve 6 or so for garnish

4 thick slices fresh watermelon

12 ounces light rum, such as Bacardi

1/2 cup simple syrup

juice of 3 limes squeezed

Sprigs of mint and spears of watermelon for garnish

You must muddle the mint leaves! Add the syrup and mint and lime juice. Place the muddler in the glass. Press down with it lightly on the leaves and give a few gentle twists. When your kitchen smells fruity/minty, it's done.

Remove and discard the rind and seeds of the watermelon. Put the fruit into a food processor or blender and puree.

Put the muddled mint into a large pitcher with 2 cups of pureed watermelon, the rum and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a pitcher for serving.

Place ice cubes in 6 glasses and pour the mojito mixture into the glasses. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint and spears of watermelon. Serve ice cold.

Mint Mojito
For 2 glasses

15 fresh mint leaves

1 lime, cut into 1 slice and juice the rest

3 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste

1.5 cups ice cubes

3 fluid ounces white rum

1 cup club soda

You must muddle the mint leaves. Add the sugar and mint and lime juice. Place the muddler in the glass. Press down with it lightly on the leaves and give a few gentle twists. When your kitchen smells fruity/minty, it's done.

Do not strain the mixture.

Fill the glasses almost to the top with ice.

Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with carbonated water.

Stir, taste, and add more sugar if desired. Garnish with the lime slice.

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