By Dave Pezza
It’s officially summer! Those of us in the Northeast can take a quiet sigh of relief that winter is a full season behind us and can no longer fling two inches of snow at us like that annoying kid from middle school who, no matter how hard you tried to ditch him, managed to show up and piss you off (Yeah, that’s right I’m looking at you, Gian).
It’s fitting then that we’ve taken Home Stretch on the road this week to the one, the only, the glitzy, Los Angeles. In this perennial summer town, I can’t help but talk about a classic summer cocktail with a classic Californian album: the mojito and No Doubt’s “Rock Steady.”
I’m slightly embarrassed over how much I enjoy both of this week’s choices. No Doubt grew to popularity right as pre-teen Dave Pezza began to find music. “Rock Steady” was released in December of 2001 and captured a West Coast/take-it-easy vibe that was desperately needed after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Those of you who grew up in the late ‘90s and early 2000s will undoubtedly remember hearing the album’s lead single “Hella Good” at least a thousand times. “Rock Steady” quickly became a stable alternative rock album.
Similarly, the mojito is a staple summer cocktail. Originating in Havana, and made famous by Ernest Hemingway himself, the mojito is a refreshing alcoholic escape from the summer heat and is fairly easy to make despite the hem and haw of bartenders asked to make it. The mojito is an immensely attractive cocktail that, when served correctly (like at The Lobster on the Santa Monica Pier) can be as potent as it is enjoyable.
What you’ll need:
- 2.5 ounces white rum (I suggest Bacardi)
- 0.5 ounces of lime juice (fresh squeezed really makes a difference)
- 1 tsp. sugar or to taste
- Club soda
- 8 to 10 mint leaves
- Muddling tool or wooden spoon
- Highball or collins glass
Hopefully the sun is still out and the air still hot when you gather up all of your ingredients and push play this week, because you’re about to forget all about early morning meetings, incompetent bosses, and those torturously long Dunkin' Donuts lines!
0.5 oz. lime juice, 1tsp. sugar, and mint leaves/“Hella Good”
What a song! The ‘90s were a terrific time for electronica, and the contemporary trance music scene owes much of its beginning to artists like Daft Punk, who came out of the clubs and into the mainstream in the ‘90s and early 2000s. “Hella Good” borrows its simple but enticing beat and added effects from that trend. A true alternative rock band, No Doubt’s “Hella Good” cemented the band’s ability to craft a pound-for-pound hit song. This track is perfect to rock out to with headphones, blast before going out, or just to nod to while typing up your weekly Internet article. “Hella Good” gets everything warmed up and loose.
In an odd sense, the first part of this cocktail is the catalyst that makes the mojito so legendary. You’re getting almost all of your non-alcoholic parts of this cocktail together to create an impressive flavor profile. Grab your highball or collins glass, add your sugar, and squeeze in your lime juice. Then add five or six of the mint leaves. Take the muddling tool and muddle the sugar, lime juice, and mint together. In my experience, which I can honestly say is extensive when it comes to mojitos, these steps make or break the drink for some people. Use the measurements here as a guide for future mojitos. Muddle the ingredients almost to a paste-like consistency that mixes with the rum into a sweet nectar.
2.5 oz. white rum/“Hey Baby”
Any white rum will do here. I’m partial to Bacardi because it has a middle-of-the-road flavor that doesn’t create an overly distinct taste that can throw off the flavor of your cocktail. Once you get a feel for how you want your mojito to taste, play around with different white, and even moderately spiced, rums. Add the 2.5 oz. (or more!) of white rum. The rum should mix with the previously muddled ingredients, but use a spoon to mix them even more. It’s important that the sugar, lime, and mint dissolve into the rum and, eventually, the club soda. The sugars of all the ingredients to this point should mix wonderfully, creating a perfectly sweet yet surprisingly refreshing experience.
“Hey Baby” immediately follows “Hella Good” and raises the album’s tempo and incorporates the band’s more traditional, ska-influenced sounds. The song is topped off with Gwen Stefani’s signature and entrancingly playful singing style. This might be the album that forever endeared Stefani to me. She’s strong, energetic, nonchalant, and vulnerable throughout the album, and “Hey Baby” starts off this tour-de-Gwen. Like the previous track, “Hey Baby” adds new elements to the band’s sound with a rapping bridge from Bounty Hunter. “Hey Baby” will certainly get you singing and rocking to your neighbor’s dismay. How one cannot belt the chorus is beyond the understanding of this humble writer.
Ice, club soda, and pour/“Underneath it All”
Fine. You win. I admit it, “Underneath It All” is my favorite No Doubt song. Are you happy? I hope so, ‘cause I certainly am. What a silent giant this jam is. Admittedly, “Underneath It All” is best digested when driving along the coast, windows down, volume up. But it’s also particularly potent after a long day, with a drink in your hand, and a warm summer breeze compelling the ice-cold condensation from your glass to drip ever so slowly onto your tired and over-typed fingers.
Here is a fun game to play. Listen to this song on repeat and see if you can sing all the words to Lady Shaw’s rap portion of the song. If you can’t, don’t worry! Just take a healthy sip of your mojito and try again. Repeat.
Speaking of your mojito, fill your collins or highball glass about halfway with ice. Then add some club soda. Again, use a spoon to make sure the concoction is mixed well. Give it a quick taste test. If it is too strong, add more club soda. Once you’ve reached the right taste, throw in the remaining mint leaves and ice until the glass is full. And, as always, enjoy!