Is it just me, or is mint taking over the world? It grows wild behind the pea patch, and I’m forever ripping the burly runners out of the food bank beds. The strategy is containment, not eradication. And think long and hard before throwing mint stems into the home compost, especially if your pile doesn’t get overly hot.

Not that mint is the enemy. Not at all. It can be so versatile in the kitchen, almost like basil the way it can go savory or sweet. I like chopping it into a garlicky yogurt sauce to go with pan roasted lamb chops or grilled eggplant; thin slices are nice for Vietnamese cucumber salads and tabbouleh.

Even the picky Biscuit likes to chew on mint, and she can happily entertain herself with a sprig while I chop soil and pull weeds. For a few minutes, at least, which is good as it gets these days.

I give bunches of mint to everybody I think might care to use them. Our hippie neighbors. Our foodie friends. I gave a big bunch to a chef friend, who took one sniff and exclaimed, “Cocktails!”

Indeed. First week in May, and even if you don’t care much about race horses, you can still enjoy a refreshing beverage with crushed mint and delicious alcohol. Only the mint is truly local in this drink, so if food miles are a concern, make up for it by using lots of the stuff.

The Old Cuban

One dozen mint leaves, or more to taste / 3 tbls lime juice / 4 tbls simple syrup* / 2 tbls rum / 2 dashes bitters / 4+ tbls Champagne

Muddle mint and lime juice in cocktail shaker. Add simple syrup, rum, bitters, and ice, and shake until chilly. Strain into two cocktail glasses and add half of the Champagne to each.

*Make simple syrup from 1 cup sugar dissolved over heat into 1 cup water.

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