Most Arkansas restaurants have that one dish that they’re known by. It’s the dish that you crave, the one that puts the restaurant on the map. It’s the signature dish. This series tells the stories behind some of Little Rock’s most iconic plates and explores what makes them so memorable.
The signature dish: Mojitos at La Terraza Rum and Lounge.
Availability: Mojitos are available at La Terraza any time the restaurant is open.
The story: It’s not really a secret that Little Rock has a tremendous cocktail scene, especially if you like whiskey or bourbon. Many a bar program has made its name both on the back of classic recipes (like the Old Fashioned or Sazerac) and by pushing the envelope. If you like margaritas, there are at least five spots around town that make an outstanding version. Places like Capital Bar and Grill, South on Main, The Pantry and Local Lime are arguably just as well known for their bar programs as they are for their food menu. However, for many years there just weren’t many places doing rum-based drinks.
That changed when La Terraza Rum and Lounge opened in 2015. The Venezuelan restaurant made rum the focal point of its bar program, and its cocktail of choice was the mojito. La Terraza opened with around half a dozen mojitos and quickly expanded its menu; a recent “Mojito Mania” event featured around 15 different recipes, and the La Terraza team continues devising new ways to present the classic Caribbean rum cocktail.
What makes it unique: The mojito is a simple enough cocktail, featuring rum, lime, mint, sugar and a splash of soda water. It seems like anybody should be able to do it, but the folks at La Terraza have turned mojito-making into an art form. Owner Armando Bolaños prefers a rustic approach to the mojito, refusing to strain the cocktail. Any given sip might have some smashed lime or a bit of a mint leaf. It keeps the drink exciting and interesting all the way through.
Of course, balance is the key to any good drink, and that’s where La Terraza shines. No one element of the cocktail is out of proportion to the rest. I think especially of the spiced mojito, which brings warm heat from a spiced rum and keeps it in complete harmony with the sweetness and acidity of the remaining ingredients. Of course, there are many more options to play with. The coconut mojito uses a housemade coconut syrup for a highly tropical palate pleaser. The pineapple mojito, made with pineapple rum, is sweet, tart and refreshing. And then there’s the raspberry mojito. And the black spiced mojito. And the mango mojito, and many more that I haven’t been able to try yet. Each one is instantly recognizable for the mojito at its heart while having its own fun expression that will appeal to different people.
The price: Pricing can vary depending on what you get and when you get it. La Terraza has mojitos starting at $6 for a 10-ounce, $8 for a 16-ounce and $22 for a 48-ounce “Mega Mojito” designed to share. La Terraza also offers mojito pitchers starting at $25. At happy hour and at some events, La Terraza discounts those prices.
The verdict: This is the first time in our Signatures series that we’ve written about a restaurant’s drinks instead of its food, but in La Terraza’s case, it’s well-deserved. The mojitos here are simply some of the best cocktails you can find anywhere in Little Rock. Want a good reason to enjoy them this week? National Rum Day is Thursday, Aug. 16, and La Terraza will be celebrating with a full lineup of rum and mojitos. It’s only $15 in advance ($20 at the door) to get in, get some samples of rum and get a free mojito to start the evening off.