Yes, the beaches really are like that. And, the caipirinhas really are delicious. A “utility beverage” indeed! The un-official national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha is, to me, most similar to the Cuban mojito. But, mostly it’s delicious.
The Traditional Caipirinha
The traditional caipirinha is made with cachaça (a white alcohol made from sugar cane), sugar, and lime. But they now use just about every fruit under the sun to make caipirinhas — mango, pineapple, strawberry, and passion fruit are some of the most common — but I’ve had cocoa, and other less common flavors as well. I will never turn down a well-made caipirinha and have a soft spot for the traditional lime, but my personal favorite (and the favorite of my bestie) is strawberry/passion fruit. My brother and my husband both say that kiwi is their favorite, but I’ve never seen either of them turn down ANY well-made caipirinha.
What is a Caipiroska?
More recently, there is a trend to make a caipirinha with vodka rather than the traditional cachaça — and this is called a caipiroska. Because this is newer and trendier variation, it also costs more — not much more — but it is usually a handful of reais more (about $1-2USD more).
You Get What you Pay For
As with any cocktail, you get what you pay for. The quality of the cachaça makes all the difference! If you are only paying a couple of reais for a your drink, it’s probably made with the brand “51”, which is really cheap — and tastes like it (and gives me an awful headache). I will happily pay 10-12 reais for a caipirinha on the street if I can sip it knowing that I won’t regret it the next day.
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Make a Caipirinha at Home
There are a lot of recipes on the interwebs (here is a particularly detailed one from HuffPo), but I’ll give you my simple lime version.
- 1 lime, cut into small pieces (leave the peel on)
- bakers sugar — a couple of tablespoons to taste (baker’s sugar dissolves better, making a more evenly-flavored caipirinha)
- a nice cachaça — a shot or two to taste
Put the cut lime and bakers sugar in a cocktail shaker or glass and muddle together until the sugar is dissolved and the juice has been extracted from the lime. Add in your cachaça and ice. Shake, shake, and shake some more. Pour in a glass and serve.
Where are my Pants?
I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite quote of the Parts Unknown episode that the above video clip was taken from (Season 3, episode 8, Brazil – Netflix / Amazon). “What’s magical about this cocktail is the first taste, it’s like, ‘I don’t know man. It’s a little too something.’ And then that second sip, it’s like, ‘aw, that’s kinda good.’ Then the third sip, it’s ‘where are my pants?'” – Anthony Bourdain