The Riff

The Riff: The Mojito | Video

Sean Umstead's mojito riff: Fig Leaf Mojito

With a refreshing combination of citrus and mint accents, it’s no wonder the mojito was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink. The classic, thirst-quenching libation originated in Cuba, using indigenous ingredients. Now to give this traditional Cuban punch a flavor makeover with local, Carolinian flora.

Embracing the guest experience and connecting with local farmers are top priorities for Sean Umstead, co-owner of Kingfisher cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. With a selection of specialty cocktails crafted by Umstead himself, Kingfisher is the place to go for a ground-to-glass selection. Everything about the drinks, from logo-impressed ice cubes to handmade ceramic glasses, reflects an intentionally curated ambiance that cannot go unnoticed.

Reinventing the Classic Mojito

Made to compliment sitting in the ocean breeze, the mojito is a refreshing combination of rum, lime, mint, and a dash of sweetness. By gently muddling the mint and simple syrup together, this step expresses the oils to enhance a minty flavor, and additionally adding the fresh squeezed lime shows a touch of personalized care that makes all the difference. 

Umstead’s riff on a traditional mojito brings natural, coconut-like flavors, an ingredient not found in the Carolinas. “Finding ingredients that allude to that is really fun,” Umstead says about the special addition.

When the fig trees leaf out in the late spring through early fall, Umstead and his colleagues at Kingfisher began putting the leaves in different drinks on their menu. The process involves a three-day infusion of rum with fig leaves, allowing the earthy, nutty, flavor to join the traditional cocktail.

classic mojito heading-plus-icon


1 drink

  • 3 mint leaves
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • Soda water
  • Garnish: Lime wedge

In a collins glass, gently muddle mint leaves with simple syrup. Add lime juice and rum. Fill glass with ice and top with soda water. Stir gently to incorporate.

fig leaf mojito heading-plus-icon


1 drink

  • 3 mint leaves
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces fig leaf rum (recipe follows)
  • Soda water
  • Garnish: fresh fig leaf
  • Fig Leaf Rum
  • 3½ ounces fresh fig leaves, chopped
  • ⅔ bottle white rum
  1. Infuse fig leaf rum: In a quart container, combine fresh, chopped fig leaves with rum. Cover and steep for 48 hours. Strain leaves out of rum before using.
  2. Make the mojito: In a collins glass, gently muddle mint leaves with simple syrup. Add lime juice, rum, and fill glass with ice. Top with soda water and stir to incorporate. Garnish with fig leaf.

Video by: Jonathan Boncek

Edits by: Jack McAlister

Production by: Maggie Ward

Location: Doar Bros., Charleston

  • Recipe By
    Sean Umstead, Kingfisher, Durham, North Carolina
  • Contributing City
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