Raspberry Mojitos at JRDN

JRDN's raspberry mojito

JRDN's raspberry mojito

  • -1-1⁄4 oz. Montecristo Premium Blend
  • -Club soda
  • -8–10 mint leaves
  • -2 lime wedges or 1⁄4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • -3⁄4 oz. simple syrup
  • -5 fresh raspberries

In a tall glass, muddle 3 raspberries, torn mint leaves, and lime wedges or juice. Add simple syrup (sugar and water). Top with ice. Add rum. Fill with club soda. Garnish with 2 raspberries and a sprig of mint. “Never use aged rum,” says JRDN bartender Juan Sanchez. “Caramel notes from the barrel-aging ruin the Mojito’s color and interfere with its citrus and fruit profiles.”

There was this guy.

We hadn’t said more than a few words to each other. I wasn’t even sure he was single. Sharon, my flirtiest girlfriend, said go for it. “Ask him over for a drink.”

“But it’s gotta be your own special drink,” Sharon said. “He’s a chef. They probably go for that kind of thing.”

Yes, indeed he was a chef. How the white apron sat frenchly on his hips! How imperiously he commanded waitstaff and line cooks! The darling shoebox he carried into work, filled with herbs and vegetables from his very own garden.

It would have to be a pretty special drink. I turned to Bill, another good friend, and his book, Shaken and Stirred, a chronicle of drinking adventures and unusual cocktails.

I scanned recipes and ingredient lists, steering clear of tricky glassware, complicated maneuvers, and anything made with blue booze.

Mojito.

“You can drink a mojito without really thinking about it,” Bill writes. “Then the music starts — the sad, swaying strum that seems to be coming out of a decaying Cuban guitar — but it’s coming out of you.”

I had limes. Mint. Both grew in my backyard. (A cocktail made from my own crops!) Squeeze and muddle, splash and stir. Rum (yum), sparkling water, simple syrup, ice. Who could say no?

“Would you like to come over for a Mojito?” I asked the chef.

“Okay,” he said.

And he never left.

Three years after we sat in my backyard drinking Mojitos, the chef and I were married. These days we are a cocktail-out kind of couple. After we’ve cooked in the afternoon in preparation for a quiet dinner at home, we often cruise over to JRDN.

JRDN is the restaurant/bar of Tower 23, a discreet, hypersleek hotel on the Pacific Beach boardwalk. I’ve heard it sits where Skip and Donna Frye’s surf shop used to be.

With all apologies to the Fryes and a nod to Graham Downes Architecture, I have to say few places in town make this much of our natural resources. JRDN is floor to ceiling, north to south, 190 degrees of ocean view. There is seating outside, but sitting inside feels outside too. Great glass panels slide wide open to ocean air and breeze.

By night JRDN’s clever “wave wall” ripples and shimmers like abalone shell. Programmed lights project onto the sculptured surface of the wall and create the illusion of liquid movement. (Think Japanese watercolor meets anime.) It’s a cocktail for the eyes.

All this chic elevates our preprandial conversation and makes us feel more beautiful. Sometimes I pretend we’re not in San Diego at all but in St. Tropez or Biarritz, until I spot Peter the Limo Man or Old-School Mike, surfer friends from La Jolla Shores, sitting across the bar.

The only Mojitos I’ve had in a bar that come close to the sunlight and music of my homemade ones are the Raspberry Mojitos at JRDN. They are the prettiest Mojitos in town, stained a drifty scarlet-pink and served in iced, slim highball glasses.

“Never seen a drink like it,” says bartender Juan Sanchez. “The first one goes out, and then everybody starts saying, ‘I’ll take one of those.’ ”

The tennis grannies drink them, as do the working moms, Buenos Aires heiresses, and scruffy surfer girls. Tables of grown men suck straws, unabashedly quaffing their third or fourth pink Mojito, flipping through them like one-liners on a singles’ cruise.

I smile and squeeze the chef’s hand. “Beware,” I want to whisper to the Mojito drinkers of JRDN. “Beware. This is a cocktail that can change your life.”

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