Audrey Saunders is a New York bartending legend, best known for her work at Soho’s Pegu Club, where she mentored a roster that includes some of today’s most talented barkeeps. In addition to her penchant for attracting and fostering top talent, she’s also credited with creating several enduring cocktails, many of which are still served at bars around the world.
A few of those drinks, including the Gin Gin Mule and the Old Cuban, predate Pegu Club. The Old Cuban was created by Saunders in 2001, while she was working at a midtown restaurant called Beacon and the cocktail renaissance was just beginning.
The cocktail takes inspiration from the Mojito, but it features a few important tweaks that result in a wholly unique flavor experience. For starters, Saunders employs aged rum, rather than the Mojito’s traditional call for white rum. From there, simple syrup, fresh lime juice and mint continue the Mojito trajectory, but those ingredients benefit from aromatic bitters and a topper of champagne, which brings a festive dose of effervescence to the drink.
Throughout her career, Saunders showed a knack for reinventing classics and proved that tweaking tried-and-true templates can be just as effective—and potentially more delicious—than even the most creative concoctions. That’s evident in the Old Cuban. It pairs the familiar notes of a Mojito with the bubbly zing of a French 75. But it holds its own as an original creation and is now part of the modern bartender’s repertoire, a go-to option for rum drinks, Mojito riffs and celebrations.
- 6 whole mint leaves
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 3/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 1/2 ounces aged rum
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 ounces Champagne
- Garnish: mint sprig
Muddle the mint leaves with simple syrup and lime juice in a shaker.
Add the rum and the bitters and ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a coupe glass.
Top with Champagne and garnish with a mint sprig.