Caipirinha

Post image for Caipirinha

by Matt Robold on August 15, 2011

It’s the national drink of Brazil, made with their national spirit, and it’s internationally awesome.

Caipirinha

2 oz Cachaça
2 tsp Sugar
Slices of 1 lime

Combine all in a glass and muddle limes thoroughly. Add ice and stir (optionally toss in a shaker).

What do you do when you have a sugarcane based spirit? You mix it with lime and sugar, of course!

Looking at the Caipirinha, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Essentially you have a daiquiri made with cachaça instead of rum. Of course there is significant debate about whether cachaça, the national spirit of Brazil, is technically a rum or technically in its own unique category, but in the end you find yourself with the very basic sugarcane-spirit sour done in a different manner.

For a long time cachaça was the drink of the lower classes of Brazilian society, and they drank it with great gusto. The name, Caipirinha, is Portuguese for Little Hillbilly (roughly translated, of course – technically caipira is the same as hillbilly and adding the -inha to the end makes it diminutive).

Suggested Rums:

  • Novo Fogo Silver
  • Leblon Cachaça
  • Sagatiba Pura

According to some Brazilians, the caipirinha was originally a sort of folk-medicine, used for treating colds and sore throats. Even today it is not uncommon to see people in Brazil drink a mixture of cachaça, lime, and honey when they’re feeling a little under the weather.

Dragos Axinte from Novo Fogo Cachaça says the medicinal history of the caipirinha may be bunk:

There is a great saying that the caipirinha is the best remedy for the common cold: lime gives you vitamin C, sugar gives you energy, and cachaça gives you happiness. Some claim that, in fact, this might be the origin of the caipirinha – medicine. Well, I doubt that, I think it’s just a justification….

I find it interesting that in Brazil, the drink with cane spirit, sugar, and lime was the drink of the lower classes while, in the 19th Century, the same combination became the drink of both the lower and upper classes in Martinique under the nom de plume, ‘Ti Punch.

With the advent of easily accessible ice this hillbilly concoction was transformed into an incredibly refreshing beverage. As cachaça eventually gained in international popularity, the caipirinha traveled with it. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find a serious cocktail bar that can’t serve a delicious caipirinha or one of its many variants.

The preparation is dirt simple, requiring nothing more complicated than a knife, a muddler, and a jigger (or not). Most people simply quarter the limes before the mashing begins, though there are those (such as myself) who try to cut the lime chunks more thinly to prevent the more bitter core of the lime from getting into the drink (you’re also more likely to avoid seeds this way).

The most common preparation sees the drink built and then topped with ice or crushed ice and given a quick stir. It’s not uncommon to see a bartender give the drink a quick toss in a shaker though, to better integrate the flavors of the ingredients. I suppose you could argue that that detracts from the more rustic nature of the drink. Frankly this is one drink that I think can stand to live without too many hard and fast rules. What’s important is that you’re left with a deliciously crisp and refreshing cocktail that is almost disturbingly easy to finish.

Question Of The Day:

What was your first Caipirinha experience?

{ 11 comments }

Dave Stolte August 15, 2011 at 10:59 am

Love it! One of my favorite summer drinks. My first Caipirinha was making it at home back around ’98, from the recipe in Paul Harrington’s book.

A friend who visited Brazil recently said it’s more common down there to get these with all kinds of muddled fruit (whatever’s in season) – strawberries, melon, etc. They had to ask for is specifically with lime only!

The drink inspired my illustration here: http://davestolte.com/?p=247

Jeffero August 15, 2011 at 11:13 am

Texas de Brazil restaurant in Memphis. Snatched up a bottle of Leblon when I got home and never looked back.

Amy August 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I’m so sad to say that I only recently had my first caipirinha in June. But I purchased my first bottle of cachaca the same day and there’s been a festival of caipirnhas on my patio ever since!
http://www.iowafoodie.com/home/2011/6/28/cafe-beaudelaire-ames.html

Dee Brown August 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Oddly enough, had for the first time while I was in Switzerland earlier this year. Been trying to remember the name ever since. The drink was nearly as expensive as a bottle over hear in the states. Wasn’t payin’, so didn’t mind. Good stuff. Used brown sugar rather than white though.

Sunny&Rummy August 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm

My first Caipirinha was sitting with my wife on the outside patio of a tropical-themed bar in Downtown Orlando in 2007, early one evening (my birthday, actually) before seeing The Police farewell concert with Elvis Costello opening. Great concert and a great drink, and I then tracked down a bottle of Cachaça within the month to start mixing ‘em up at home.

Nathan August 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm

One of our local bars put a caipirinha on their menu. I didn’t see any cachaca on their back bar, so I asked them which brand they use. They said they actually make their caipirinhas with white rum. Hmm…

melcolnik, August 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm

My first Caiprinha was at the floor bar at the Stardust in Vegas. I has heard about it and the dude behind the bar told me he could handle it. it was amazing, and the prostitute that was siting next to me was very cordial as well, if not a little uncomfortable for my wife.

Nathan August 20, 2011 at 10:36 am

My first Caipirinha I made at home with a bottle of Leblon, and I HATED it! I only used about a quarter teaspoon of sugar, and I couldn’t get over the funk in the cachaca. So the Leblon sat on my shelf unloved for many months, until I finally (spurred on by my father who swears by the drink) mixed another one with a proper amount of sugar, and I fell in love.

True story.

Jo February 3, 2012 at 6:05 am

My first Caipirinha was at Divina Carne (a churrascaria) in Vila Velha, Brazil. Pure heaven!! I continue to drink them when I return to Brazil. I have never had one in the US.

SMS April 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm

At the Rusty Pelican in Miami, on a beautiful full-moonlit night. A delicious Pelican Caipirinha — pineapple, basil, falurnam, Leblon. I’m not sure it gets any better than that.

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project April 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Having been at the Rusty Pelican, Sue Sea and I could not agree more. We’d also agree with the reader who pointed out the importance of using the usual amount of sugar in the recipe.

It’s interesting to note that of the amazing amount of cachaca made in Brazil (more than 1.5 billion, yes billion liters per year), only about 1% is exported, mostly to Germany! (Wiki). Germany was/is also a major importer of high ester Jamaican rum, so they must know something.

Only a few labels are imported into the US, and are mostly overpriced. We’re not sure Leblon is your best choice, but the Brazilians I know agree that the best cachacas are either homemade or come from the state of Minas Gerais in SE Brazil.

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