Our rental car is covered in dust and I’m savoring the inertia of sitting still after spending the day bouncing down washboard roads. The folks and I have been meandering around the scruffy bum of North America, Baja California, for the last week. My guidebook for the trip is John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, which dazzles, like most of Steinbeck’s books they don’t make you read in school. No matter which direction we head, Steinbeck went there first, and his honest, accurate prose doesn’t suffer for the near seventy years that separate his trip from ours.

It isn’t surprising that The Log from the Sea of Cortez is still insightful; Steinbeck was a good writer and places change slowly. But where I expected a travelogue, Steinbeck delivers a bawdy philosophy of science. Steinbeck is unimpressed with a bundle of results tied up neatly with explanations—“a world wrinkled with formaldehyde.” He writes science: exploration, dissection, discovery. Of course, lab scientists such as me always envy field workers. Unless I start synthesizing psychedelics, I won’t be taking any trips into unknown country anytime soon. But, when I publish, I will cling to The Log as my antidote to the desiccated style of “proper science.” Steinbeck had another hypothesis, that found favor with me: that the water at Cabo San Lucas was bad, and the crew should drink beer and coffee instead. In honour of that remark, I present the following recipe:

New Year’s Mojitos

Prepare a simple syrup by combining equal parts white sugar and water with several sprigs of mint, and heating gently while stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool immediately. Chill a highball or other glass. While it chills, prepare a solution of 60 mL white rum and 30 mL of fresh lime juice. Add simple syrup until the mixture tastes neither sour nor sweet, about 15 mL. Add several sprigs of mint to the glass, followed by the solution. Muddle the mint. Add a slice of lime, then fill the glass with ice. Top off with soda water and stir a couple of times, but not too much or the mint will float to the top. Imbibe.