Caipirinha

May 26, 2012

Caipirinhas are the national cocktail of Brazil, and I understand they’ve been quite popular in the US and elsewhere recently (anyone know if this is true?).

Basically Caipirinhas use Brazil’s national spirit, Cachaça, to make a drink in the same way that you’d make a Daiquiri with white rum or a ‘Ti Punch with Rhum Agricole – spirit, sugar and lime.

Cachaça (pronounced ka-CHAR-sa) is an interesting spirit. They drink a staggering amount of it in Brazil, apparently, but it is (at least until recently) virtually unknown in other countries.

Some call Cachaça ‘Brazilian Rum’, but the taste is quite different. Much like Rhum Agricole (which I discussed in an earlier post), Cachaça is made from cane sugar juice rather than from the molasses used to make rum.

This gives it a taste which I find very close to that of  Rhum Agricole – a boisterous, rough, pungent, grassy, vegetable taste with a definite whiff of ‘Hogo’.

But add just a little lime and sugar to these spirits and the undrinkable becomes something delicious and very much full of character. That’s what a Caipirinha is all about.

The basic authentic Brazilian Caipirinha is Cachaça, lime and sugar, but some variations have gone the way of the Daiquiri, with all kinds of fruit being added. I have heard a Caipirinha described as any drink with Cachaça and muddled fruit, but according to my secret source, that could perhaps be better termed a Caipifruta.

The Caipirinha

2 oz Cachaça

2 tsp sugar

1/2 a lime

Cut the lime in half, end to end. Taking the half you want to use, remove the large piece of white pith from the middle. Cut this half into six equal pieces.

In the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, lightly dissolve 2 tsp of castor (superfine) sugar in a little Cachaça. Don’t completely dissolve it; just so it’s like a paste. Add your lime pieces and muddle them. Don’t over-muddle or it will be too bitter. The undissolved sugar will act as an abrasive on the lime and help release the juices and oils.

Half fill the glass with ice and add Cachaça. Pour this into a cobbler shaker, or add the tin of a Boston shaker. Shake lightly until cold. It should be enough to dissolve the sugar, but not to pulverise the ice or limes. Then pour the whole lot back in the glass.

Top up with more ice and serve as-is.

I’ve seen recipes recommend raw cane sugar, but I think the fine stuff is right. It needs to be undissolved to help muddle the limes, but fine enough to then dissolve into the drink with a little shaking. Apparently in Brazil they often don’t shake though, but I think you’d have to at least stir a little to mix the ingredients and dissolve the sugar.

I liked this drink a lot. It is obviously a lot like a Daiquiri in balance of ingredients, but closer to a ‘Ti Punch (yet better) in taste. The Cachaça gives it a very strong, vibrant, natural taste, but it’s in a very rich, earthy way – don’t expect a crisp, fresh drink.

Caipifruta

Make this just the same way that you’d make a Caipirinha, but muddle in some fruit of your choice with the limes. I thought I’d give one a try, as my wife’s a big fan of fresh pineapple, and it’s in season and always in our fridge at the moment.

This pineapple Caipifruta was OK. I had roughly as much pineapple as lime, and about half as much sugar. It was definitely not as good as the straight Caipirinha, but I’m sure you could make some nice drinks with different kinds of fruit if you experimented with the right proportions – a good activity for a group of friends, a bottle of Cachaça and a sunny afternoon.

The Cachaça I used is called Uirapuru, and I’ve been able to find absolutely no information about it, which is exactly as much as I could find for the only other brand available in Taipei (to my knowledge), Samba & Cana. Both are available at Breeze Supermarket and at the Hengjui Liquor Store in Jingmei (or a couple of other bottle shops here and there). Both sell for about 550NT, but this one was discounted to 350NT (at Hengjiu), so I went for it! It tasted pretty good to me (well, once I put it in a Caipirinha, at least), but having no previous experience with the spirit, I have no idea where it sits on the spectrum of rubbish to premium spirits.

Here’s the great New Orleans bartender and cocktail archaeologist Chris Macmillian (whose recipe I mostly used) showing how it’s done:

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9 Responses to “Caipirinha”

  1. Alicia Says:

    I LOVE caipirinhas! I like the basics, and I have also infused cachaca with raspberries, but have not tried muddling any fruit. They are a perfect summer drink!

  2. putneyfarm Says:

    Good post. The Brazilians do put other fruits in sometimes. Strawberries work (but I still like the original better as well).

  3. Ben Says:

    My sister has a Brazilian friend who introduced us to caipirinhas one hot Christmas. We didn’t have any cachaça, so he just used vodka, not even bothering to use rum. And I didn’t see him prepare it, but I rather doubt he muddled his lime or even shook the drink. We drank a lot of it over the day, with soda, topping up each others’ glasses before they were fully emptied.

    I think the caipirinhas drunk in a large part of Brazil aren’t drunk as a cocktail, but just as a drink, if you can appreciate the distinction I am making. I like to think that a caipirinha is less about the ingredients or how it is made, but how it is drunk – ideally at a joyous Brazilian barbecue with samba music played on steel drums.

    • theboolion Says:

      That’s the impression I kind of got too, and that was my semi-arbitrary distinction between Caipirinha and Caipifruta. Actually both can be called Caipirinha, but I was using that ofr the narrow definition and Caipirfruta for the wider definition which is a much more loosely defined drink.

  4. Seamus Says:

    Caipirinhas are pretty mainstream these days. Though many bars that list a Caipirinha on their menu actually make it with vodka or Bacardi.

    The drink seems to have got a bit of a life of its own. I think people like it because the preparation resembles a Mojito (i.e. muddling, chunks of fruit in the glass, etc.). Bars probably like it because they don’t need to keep mint on hand.

    I like them, but possibly prefer a daiquiri.


  5. […] how I loved the Ti’ Punch which is this combo with Rhum Agricole instead of normal rum, and the Caipirinha which is the same again with Cachaça instead of rum. Add to that the Mojito – that extremely […]


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