The Caipirinha –
When it’s hot, muggy and energy is hard to muster, there’s nothing quite like a Caipirinha to pick us up. No wonder then that it’s the national drink of Brazil. The base spirit of the Caipirinha (which roughly translates as “peasant girl”) is cachaça of which Brazilians produce over 1.5 billion litres of each year and consume almost all of themselves. Respect. Cachaça is a sugarcane juice distillate that is either sold unaged or aged in wood barrels. So it’s rum? Yes and no. Without going into details let’s just say it’s a close relative to rum. In its basic unaged form it’s inexpensive and kind of rough but with addition of sugar, lime and some crushed ice it is magically transformed into something truly transcendent. It’s always puzzled me because if you did the same thing with some dodgy bottom-shelf white rum it would taste like crap, yet the Caipirinha is fresh, bright, earthy and just rrrrghhehh ngheheh – it’s just fabulous. Don’t be tempted to stray too far from the formula below; while cleverly worded variations may sound appealing there is no need whatsoever to mess with the best budget drink in the cocktail canon.
– and the art of muddling:
The Caipirinha is made in the glass so no shaker is required, instead you’ll need a muddler. In cocktailworld we like to use fancy words for simple things to make us seem special. So if you don’t have a muddler any fat stick will do. For example I used a wooden pestle for years until a wood-turning friend (cheers Tom!) made me the King of all Muddlers (see picture). But, really, anything with a wide flat end will do – so at last you’ll have a use for that Harry Potter wand you got for your birthday. Proceed thusly: In a large squat glass (a double old fashioned glass is optimal) throw half of a fresh lime cut into four wedges followed by two teaspoons of sugar (fine is best). Using your chosen muddler press the juice from the wedges and work the sugar and juice together. Give a twist as you press. Try not to totally destroy the lime as this will release unwanted bitterness from the pith – you just want enough pressure to get the juice and oils out and into the sugar. Congratulations, you are now a certified muddler. Now simply add the cachaça and top up with crushed ice. Give it all a good stir, making sure that the sugar gets lifted from the bottom of the glass and mixed in well with the cachaça. Indeed, leaving some kind of stirring implement is a good idea. This is one case where I don’t suggest using sugar syrup in place of granulated sugar as, to me, the occasional unexpected sweet hit of a little undissolved sugar is a crucial part of the experience.
2oz cachaça (I like 51 brand even though it’s dirt cheap).
Half a large lime cut into four wedges.
2 teaspoons of white sugar.
Muddle as described above.
Toast those top scoopers – the Brazilians. Ordem e Progresso!