A mojito (pronounced mo-HEE-toe), one of Cuba’s oldest cocktails, comes from the African word mojo, which means to place a little spell.
One rum distiller traces the drink’s roots to 1586, when Francis Drake and his pirates tried to sack Havana for its gold. While the invasion was unsuccessful, Drake’s associate, Richard Drake, was said to have invented a mojito-like cocktail known as El Draque made with aguardiente (a crude forerunner of rum), sugar, lime and mint. Early on, it was consumed for medicinal purposes. Around the mid-1800s, the recipe was altered and gained in popularity. In 1940, Cuban playwright and poet Federico Villoch proclaimed: "When aquardiente was replaced with rum, the Draque was to be called a Mojito."‘
Other accounts suggest that slaves working in Cuban sugar cane fields in the late 19th century invented the mojito.
Ernest Hemingway fancied them at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana as well as in Key West (his favorite drink was the daiquiri, though). James Bond (aka Pierce Brosnan) drank one in a famous scene with Halle Berry in Die Another Day and Sonny Crockett (aka Colin Ferrell) declared himself "a fiend for mojitos" in the Miami Vice movie.
No matter the origin story of the mojito, I believe that mojitos survived over the years because they are fresh, delicious, and they helped make palatable the crude rum made by Cuban farmers. That's why I don't subscribe to any specific brand of rum when it comes to making my mojitos.