By Suzanne Manners

A really good Mojito is hard to make.

It requires just the right mix of mint leaves, Bacardi, brown sugar and soda water and lots and lots of crushed ice. A good Mojito is like a cool breeze on a hot day. It should taste clean and fresh with a mere hint of sweetness. It should not knock your socks off or send you hurtling from your bar stool to leave you crumpled in an undignified heap on the floor. As much as I enjoy making Mojito mine have a tendency to taste like chewing gum soaked in rocket fuel (my own brother has advised me never to attempt to concoct one again in fact he likened my last attempt to the slime found at the bottom of a prehistoric tar pit). Unlike frivolous cocktails such as Piña Colada, the Mojito is masculine and beefy. It is the prize cage fighter of cocktails, the testosterone fuelled aperitif drunk by Hemingway and Castro; it is a Cuban carnival rather than an after eight drinks party at Henley; the Mojito is a promise of sun soaked sand and hot bodies gyrating rhythmically along the barrio; the sound of whistles and laughter, of whispered desire, hot nights and dark bars; of men wearing Panama hats and sly smiles as they disappear into the shadows, the cadence of cicadas in the humid afternoon. 

Yes I am a romantic and I do have the tendency to imbue simple things with greater meaning, but isn’t that what being an artist is all about? Anyway the Mojito obsession this week is the consequence of drinking a particularly large and particularly strong one in a bar on Thursday. I knew it was strong because my son began to make sense and I interpreted his “For god’s sake mum!” as “mum I love you and you are the most intelligent mother in the whole world and you are always right.” That was just before sliding gracefully from the bar stool and onto the floor.

As I’m writing this, basking in the heat of the afternoon, cold beer in hand, I am watching the weather news from the UK. We Brits are always surprised at the vagaries of the weather and yet it has never been any other way. As a child I remember frozen pipes in March, thunderstorms in August, floods and even tornadoes. Before the barrier, the Thames was always flooding, Wales was always wet and it always snowed when you least expected it. Even though it snows in most places every winter, local councils still run out of grit and trains crawl to a halt. The only typical weather you can be certain of in the UK is untypical weather. It is no wonder we Brits are so pragmatic in our packing, not only PG Tips teabags but an umbrella or two, sunscreen, bathing suit and coat. We pack like schizophrenic travel reps.

Five years in Spain has taught me to relax about the weather; June, hot, July, hot, August, very hot, September, hot…you get the picture. So what do I pack when travelling in Spain? Sarong, bikini, sunscreen, mint leaves, a bottle of Bacardi, Brown sugar and a couple of bottles of Cava. What else?

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