Caipirinha means ‘little countryside drink’ but don’t be taken in, as I was, by its diminutive nickname. I drank my first in Madrid, then took the rash decision to down a second – on an empty stomach.
Caipirinha's exhilarating balance of lime and sugar hit the sweet-and-sour spot, making even a dish of crispy pigs’ ears seem almost appealing. The sting in a Caipirinha (pronounced ki-pee-ree-nya) is provided by cachaça (cash-assa), a cousin of rum distilled from fermented sugar-cane juice, and Brazil’s national spirit.
Typically, it’s between 38% and 48% alcohol, but with homemade cachaça the sky’s the limit – cachaceiro is a Brazilian euphemism for drunkard.
When Henry Ford built Fordlandia in the Amazon rainforest, a prefabricated town to produce rubber for tyres, he banned tobacco and alcohol; and in Brazil alcohol means cachaça. They consume upwards of one and half billion litres of the stuff every year, making it, in numerical terms, one of the world’s most popular spirits. No wonder Fordlandia lies abandoned.
- 50ml cachaça
- 2tsp granulated sugar or 25ml sugar syrup
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Ice cubes or crushed ice
It’s so easy to make a Caipirinha that you can’t go wrong. Cut a ripe lime lengthways into eight wedges, scoring the fleshy sides to make them easier to crush. In Brazil they use green lemons called limon subtil but limes are an acceptable stand-in.
Place your wedges in the bottom of a sturdy tumbler with two teaspoons of granulated sugar and muddle them (a bartender’s word for pulverize) with a pestle.
Those who are offended by a few undissolved sugar granules can use one shot of sugar syrup (25ml) instead, but the abrasiveness of the granules extracts more of the aromatic oils from the limes’ skins. Please be careful, as crushing hard, unripe limes in a fragile glass is an accident waiting to happen.
Pour in a double measure of cachaça (50ml) and muddle some more.
Fill the tumbler with ice cubes or crushed ice, stir and serve with a straw. It might seem excessive to fill the glass with ice but this actually slows down melting and, hence, dilution in the drink.
To make crushed ice you could invest in a fancy crusher or wrap some cubes in a tea towel and hit it with a rolling pin. Put on some Astrud Gilberto, place a basket of fruit on your head and bash away to the rhythm.
Cachaça is made in white and golden styles, pura and velha respectively. The lighter pura style is best in Caipirinhas, while the barrel-aged velha can be enjoyed straight over ice.
Caipifruta is a version of Caipirinha made with crushed fresh fruits other than limes. Try it with crushed kiwi, passion fruit, pineapple, mango or grapes.
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