A spooky shudder sweeps over me as I stand in front of the display case just inside The Volcano [2349 Bissonnet, (713)526-5282]. The glass case contains a Day of the Dead altar on which sit two copies of Malcolm Lowry's masterpiece of alcoholic horror Under the Volcano and a recent obit for Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell. I grew up in Pittsburgh with Stargell and the Pirates, and for reasons that defy explanation, I read Lowry's eerie novel, which takes place in Mexico on Day of the Dead, while on my honeymoon. The display leaves me, if you will excuse the wordplay, both stirred and shaken.
The Volcano's Mojito: I can't remember if the Consul, the character in Lowry's novel, drank mojitos, but I'm sure he would have liked them. He was the kind of guy who never met a cocktail he didn't like. The fresh mint-and-rum concoction is my favorite Cuban cocktail, although it's more authentic with contraband Havana Club rum. I notice The Volcano's version tastes better toward the end -- when you use sugar instead of simple syrup, it takes a while for the granules to dissolve.
10 fresh mint leaves
2 packages sugar
1 shot freshly squeezed lime juice
2 shots Bacardi rum
Put the mint, sugar and lime juice in the bottom of a tall glass and crush the leaves with a wooden or metal muddler until the herb stains the liquid dark green. Pour in the rum and fill the glass with ice cubes. Add soda until the glass is full. Makes one.