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?

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