The Caipirinha is one of the most well known Brazilian cocktails synonymous with Brazil’s sugar cane spirit, caçacha. Over the last few years, the cocktail has risen to global fame thanks to an increased interest in and availability of caçhaca outside of Brazil. The cocktail’s name is derived from a Portuguese pejorative term used to describe working class folk—caipira—which loosely translates to “hillbilly.” But the people of Brazil take no umbrage with the name—they’re too busy enjoying the grassy, citrusy mix of caçhaca, lime and sugar, built directly into the glass. While the drink’s history is murky, most Brazilians agree that the Caipirinha got its start as a 19th century folk remedy for cholera and the Spanish flu (some traditionalists still swear by the cocktail as a cure-all). We’re not sure about the drink’s medical merits, but we can vouch for its undeniable thirst quenching properties.
The caçacha you use will dramatically alter the cocktail’s flavor. Caçachas can vary wildly in the amount of funkiness that they have. Some are also aged in barrels, and the type of wood in which they were aged in will affect the taste as well. Two of our favorite caçachas for making Caipirinhas are Leblon Cachaça—which produces a vibrant, ultra-refreshing Caipirinha—and Avuá Prata, which is funkier and fruitier. To make the cocktail, all you will need is a bottle of caçacha, a few limes, sugar cubes, a muddler and some arm strength. We assure you that once you get the knack—and a taste—for Caipirinhas, they will surely become a summer staple.
Mix it Up
There's a whole bunch of things you can do to the Caipirinha. There is an old Brazilian adage, which says that the worse the cachaça, the better the Caipirinha. But we love aged cachaça in a Caipirinha, with some demerara sugar in place of white sugar for a richer, warm flavor. Caipirinhas are also excellent canvases for seasonal fruit and produce. Try muddling plump, sweet-tart blackberries or mango chunks along with the lime, or add fresh ginger for a spicy kick.
Recommended Cachaças: Avuá, Novo Fogo, Pitú, Leblon
Thanks to its extreme simplicity, the Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail made with caçacha, fresh limes and sugar, has been embraced by America. And, as America is wont to do, we quickly took to putting our own spins on the cocktail. Bartenders have added banana liqueur and coconut milk, they’ve swapped out the sugar cane spirit for vodka...