How to Make a Caipirinha
Brazilian Cocktail Recipe
A caipirinha (KAI-PUR-EEN-YA) is the ultimate Brazilian cocktail. I have known this to be true since I was a teenage girl, summoned into the kitchen along with my older sister to help cut up the limes for my parents' parties. Making a caipirinha might feel like a labor intensive process (believe me, I argued the same before I was of legal drinking age), but the results are well worth it to the very last drop.
The word caipirinha is a diminutive form of the word caipira, a common and endearing practice in the Portuguese language. Caipira translates literally to an individual who resides in rural, remote areas. Without any local negative connotations, the name caipirinha perfectly suits the simplicity in the taste of the drink.
- 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons cane sugar
- crushed ice
- 2 ounces cachaça (KA-SHA-SA), a Brazilian sugar cane rum
- Thoroughly wash one lime. When selecting your lime, choose one which is evenly green and a little soft to the touch. Beautiful and juicy limes are a must!
- Cut lime by removing ends of limes, cutting lime in quarters, and cutting quarters into 4 or 5 wedges each.
- Place lime wedges in a cocktail glass, preferably a tumbler with a wide mouth.
- Add sugar to the limes and with a muddler, mash limes and sugar together until all fruit juices are released. Don't rush through this step.
- Add the equivalent amount of crushed ice to the tumbler. If you do not have an ice crusher, simply place a few ice cubes inside a clean tea towel and crush with a kitchen mallet.
- Add cachaça and stir.
- A note from the pro: if the initial sip tastes too strong, let the ice melt a little before enjoying your drink. Otherwise, add more ice or a splash of water to dilute.
What is Cachaça?
Cachaça is a Brazilian cousin of rum, distilled directly from fermented sugar cane juice. It is known to be the national spirit of Brazil and originates from crops harvested at the peak of their sugar content. Growing up we had sugar cane growing in our back yard and a basic press to extract the juice. But I remember the best part was simply chewing on the raw sugarcane for a sweet treat.
There are many labels who all claim to be among the best in the industry. "51" and "Pitú" were among the most widely used and provided the best value for the money.
What is a Muddler?
A muddler is a common bartender's tool, reminiscent of a pestle, which is used to mash up the fruit placed in the bottom of a glass. Muddling releases fruit juices and forms the basis of many cocktails. Muddlers are available in many different styles and price ranges, but traditionally I know them to be made of wood.
Anecdotes About Caipirinhas
Growing up, we cringed at the thought that my parents were hosting a party. Caipirinhas were offered to our guests as one would offer wine or beer at a party in the United States. The problem was that we could not pre-cut the limes into wedges before the guests arrived, as they are known to turn bitter if left exposed to the air for a prolonged time.
I still have visions of tumblers lined up in our kitchen, and it seemed the more we muddled, the more the grown-ups drank. Caipirinhas are addictively delicious, and if made properly, go down quickly and smoothly. But never underestimate the strength of a single drink. Of course I know this from my adult life and not from way back then. Or at least so I will claim.
The true secret in avoiding all the work is to teach someone else how to make them. As I lovingly did with my husband even before we got married! He can truly get the mixture tasting more perfect and refreshing than anyone else in my family.
As teenagers, our big reward at the end of the night was a 'Kinder-caipirinha'. Basically a souped up limeade. All steps to making the virgin version of the drink are the same, but rather than adding the rum, obviously add water instead.
'Saúde' (SA-UH-DEE)! Literally translated to 'good health' or 'bless you' but the Portuguese equivalent for our 'Cheers'!