Although they do make wine in Brazil, the national drink of Brazil is the Caipirinha. This cocktail, which is becoming popular all over the world, is a refreshing mix of Cachaça (a Brazilian spirit made from distilling fermented sugarcane juice), lime, sugar and ice.
The true Caipirinha has only those four ingredients and the best Caipirinhas are made from quality ingredients.
I tried my first Caipirinha while looking out to Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. I tried a few more while south of Rio on a boat cruise from the Portuguese colonial town of Paraty. I was so enamoured with the refreshing taste of the cocktail—and the vibrant, friendly Brazilian hospitality—that I bought a bottle of Cachaça to take home.
To my surprise, the best Caipirinha I had was in one of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. It may have been the festive feeling in the favela—it was decorated with Christmas decorations children had made from used Coca Cola bottles—but there was something truly special about that Caipirinha.
This is how the Caipirinha in the favela was made:
1. Cut the lime in half
2. Remove the pith from the middle (this, I was told is the most important part)
3. Cut the lime halves in half so the lime is in quarters
4. Put the lime quarters into a glass (plastic cup was used in the favela, so nothing fancy is probably best)
5. Add white sugar (this depends on taste—two teaspoons is good, though)
6. Muddle the sugar and lime using a pestle (or back of a wooden spoon)
7. Add ice cubes
8. Pour in Cachaça (one shot will do, but in the favelas they did not measure precisely)
9. Stir (don’t worry about fancy decorations or even a straw)
It is possible to get Cachaça in bottle stores outside of Brazil, but the options are likely to be limited. In Paraty the locals told me the best Cachaça comes from Paraty; they were convincing.
I still have that same bottle of Cachaça from Paraty and I’ll be bringing it out again to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio. When I smell the sweet, fresh, ‘rum-like’ scent of Cachaça, I go to Rio….
Feature photo: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro