Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Caipirinhas are popular.  

I've noticed the drink's visibility has increased substantially over the last few years.  The drink has been featured in magazine spreads with recipes and prominent listings on cocktail menus.  Also, there has been a greater availability of cachaça in liquor stores as the drink climbs the proverbial cocktail charts.   All of these things occurring in short order.

I first had a Caipirinha in a Spanish restaurant, if you can believe it (the drink is of Brazilian origin).  In a review of the place, the writer noted how good their cocktails were, the Caipirinha with particularity.  So I tried one.  It was excellent.  It was refreshing, easy to drink, and the remnants of the sugar and lime were a nice finish.

A while back, I decided I'd try making them at home.  I don't remember whether I liked them or not, but I didn't make them again.  It's likely that I just forgot about the cachaça bottle - having sat behind handles of other liquors, which blocked my view.

I'm excited to try it again.  And, I got a muddler - a device used, in this recipe anyway, to mash the lime and sugar together in the bottom of the glass.  I have no idea what I had used before purchasing this muddler, but I doubt it was as effective.  

[Added bonus: the 2nd appearance of Al Harrington, The South Pacific Man, first featured in the Old Fashioned]

To the drink!

American Bar, page 67

2oz cachaça
1-2 barspoons sugar (or sugar cubes)

Place lime wedge and sugar into a small highball glass, press well with a pestle, pour in cachaça, stir. Fill with crushed ice and stir.

Al Harrington, The South Pacific Man, limes, and the muddler

Al Harrington overseas the mingling of sugar and lime

A homemade Caipirinha is totally different than any version I've ordered at a bar.  It's noticeably stronger, and less watered down.  The cachaça has a fiery tinge to it; it's warming.  I almost can't get over how different his drink is compared to a bar version.  The cachaça is a little harsh at first, though perhaps that is due to the quality of the bottle that I have (it's probably low-to-mid range cachaça - think something along the equivalent of Jim Beam bourbon).  It almost goes without saying, but, this is a very similar drink to a mojito.  It's clean, refreshing, and one of them is rarely enough.

I planned to take a photo of the drink itself, but it only filled up about 1/2 the glass, or maybe even less.  As a result, I just went ahead and started sipping.  Before I knew it though, the glass was empty, and I was sipping the lime and sugar combo at the bottom of the glass.  Time flies, right?  

The good news is that I had cut enough lime slices for a second drink, and honestly what gets you about these Caipirinha's is the sweet lime juice at the bottom of the glass from the residual sugar and lime.  It's the reason you keep going back!!  It's the reason I went back anyway.

So, as a result of making this second drink, I was able to take a photo of the glass.

And now, two drinks in, this Caipirinha is simply fantastic!  Whatever harshness I first felt with the cachaça is now mellow - though it is likely that some sugar was still in the glass from the first drink.  In fact, now that I'm staring at the bottom of the glass (I told you it was good!), I can see a bunch of sugar slowly cascading down the bottom of the glass as I sip away at the sugared lime juice.  Phew, another dangerous drink.

Big fan of this one.  I think it's a go-to choice in the summer.  You can adjust the amount of cachaça accordingly for the audience.  Some of the ladies may prefer a splash of distilled water to cut down some of the harsher qualities of cachaça at the get-go.  Another option is a splash of club soda, which may add another refreshing element to the drink.

The recipe above, however, is all you need for a quality cocktail.  As they say in Brazil, the the Caipirinha is a vencedor that means "winner" in Portuguese (who knew you'd learn foreign languages here?!).  


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