The Caipirinha (kye-pa-REEN-ya) is the national cocktail of Brazil, made with their national spirit, cachaça (ka-SHA-sa). Cachaça is distilled from sugar cane juice, which makes it similar to rhum agricole and agricole-style rums, but differs in that cachaça is only made in Brazil, and the aged varieties of cachaça are stored in wooden barrels made from a wide range of exotic tropical woods which lend unique flavors to the spirit. It’s got a great earthy, spicy, vegetal flavor that’s quite distinct from a molasses-based rum. Cachaça is the third most consumed spirit in the world after vodka and soju (shochu), and is currently the fastest growing spirit in North America. Keep an eye out.
Caipirinhas are very refreshing and relatively simple to make. All you need is good cachaça and a good muddler (and a little elbow grease). Myriad variations exist, in which the basic lime is joined by grapes, cherries, kumquats or other fruits, and flavored or spiced syrups can be used for sweetening. If you substitute rum for cachaça the drink becomes a Caipirissima, and with a vodka substitution is a Caipiroska.
When preparing the lime, cut the tips off each end before cutting it up. If your limes are small you can use the whole thing, cutting in half then quartering each half. For the larger, more typical Persian limes, use half a lime as indicated below.
2-1/2 ounces cachaça.
1/2 to 1 lime, quartered.
1 tablespoon bar sugar.
Using a double rocks glass, fill the glass with ice and add to a shaker. In the glass muddle the lime quarters with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved and all the juice and a goodly amount of the lime oil is pressed from the peel. Add to the ice in the shaker and shake for 10 seconds, then pour the entire contents — ice, lime hulls and all, back into the glass and serve. The spent lime pieces are your garnish.
Watch master bartender Chris McMillan make one for us.