Another season comes to a close this week as August ends and Labor Day passes. While many anticipate the arrival of brightly colored leaves, comfort food and fall sports, there are still those of us who are savoring these last days of summer’s pleasures. There’s no better way to say goodbye than to sip on a favorite summer cocktail and relish the flavors that go so well with the heat. The caipirinha is the perfect drink to do the trick.
The caipirinha is Brazil’s most popular drink and to some it is considered a simpler, more satisfying mojito. What makes it different? Caipirinhas (pronounced kai-purr-een-yuhs) are made with cachaça (pronounced ka-sha-sa), a Brazilian rum made from fresh distilled and fermented sugarcane juice, muddled lime and sugar. The combination of lime and cachaça most likely originated from Portuguese slave traders who would combine the Brazilian rum with the limes they relied on to prevent scurvy during they voyages to and from Brazil.
The beauty of the caipirinha is that it leaves a lot of options to the imagination. Caipirinhas made with other muddled fruit are the most common deviation, which replaces a portion of the required sugar with the natural sweetness of fruits like raspberries, strawberries and passionfruit. Unlike normal rum, made from molasses, a by-product of sugar refinement, the flavor of cachaça is not diluted but enhanced when married with other flavors.
TIP: If you can’t find cachaça at your liquor store, feel free to ask them to order it for you. I recommend Leblon, a premium cachaça named for a famous Rio de Janiero beach, that is made from Brazilian sugarcane, then aged in cognac barrels.
- 1 lime, cut into eighths
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 1/2 oz cachaça
- Ice cubes
1. Before cutting lime, roll the lime gently on the cutting board to loosen the peel. This will make for easier muddling. Place the lime wedges into an old fashioned or rocks glass.
2. Add sugar to the bottom of glass and muddle the two together with a muddler. The pulp of the lime should be face up, if possible.
3. Add cachaça and ice; stir well.