The caipirinha (pronounced kai-purr-REEN-yah) is the national drink of Brazil. It is the most popular cocktail in the South American country and everyone has their own way of making it. Today, it is a hit worldwide and should be on the list of every home and pro bartender.
The basic recipe is incredibly simple, requiring just three ingredients. It's made in a similar way to the old-fashioned and mojito: a simple fruit and sugar muddle topped with a shot of liquor. The liquor of choice here is cachaça, the Brazillian take on rum that distills fresh sugar cane juice rather than molasses.
With the sweetened lime and cachaça mix, you will have one of the most refreshing cocktails you can mix up. If you're new to cachaça or have a new bottle to try out, this is the one cocktail you need. Plus, as you'll see, it can serve as inspiration for many other tasty drinks.
About That Sugar
While you can use the same white cane sugar you bake with, you'll find that superfine sugar tends to be a better choice for cocktails. That's because the finer crystals are easier to dissolve and this is particularly useful in a cocktail like a caipirinha which doesn't have a lot of liquid or hard core mixing.
Don't worry about hunting down a specialty sugar, either. It's very easy to transform your ordinary kitchen sugar into superfine sugar if you have a food processor or blender.
You will also notice that the recipe recommends anywhere from 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of sugar. This range allows you to customize the cocktail's sweetness to your particular taste and the cachaça you're pouring at the moment.
Some cachaças are sweeter than others and quite a few are aged, so there are times when less sugar creates a better drink. Experiment on your own and find that perfect balance for you.
How Strong Is the Caipirinha
Much like other liquor-only muddled cocktails, there is not much in the caipirinha to dilute the drink. If we factor in a little lime juice and a slight amount of ice dilution, we can estimate that your caipirinha will be around 30 percent ABV (60 proof).
That's slightly lower than the bottling strength of the average 80-proof cachaça. Of course, it will be stronger with a higher proof liquor. Keep this in mind because it may be a great tasting drink, but it is certainly not a weak one.
Put a Twist on the Caipirinha
The most popular cocktails frequently act as a base that we can twist, turn, and manipulate to create fun and exciting new drinks. The caipirinha is no exception and the bar can become our playground with this simple formula.
One of the easiest ways to adapt the drink is to shake it then serve it up to create a caipirini. Add a little extra flavor to that and mix up a spiced pear caipirini, which is fabulous for autumn and winter.
If you want to take the lime-cachaça mix and transform it into a summer treat, consider turning it into a frozen ice pop.
Returning to the original recipe, if you have a fruit that can handle the muddler you can add it to the caipirinha. It's a perfect drink for the season's best produce and an entirely new experience every time.
For example, in the heat of summer toss a few berries into the glass for a raspberry caipirinha or a lemon, lime and blue caipirinha. When you want something exotic, mix up the likes of the kumquat-ginger caipirinha. And, when the autumn leaves start to appear, bring in some apple, cinnamon, and sage for a pleasant homecoming caipirinha.
Let these recipes serve as inspiration. See what new fruits, herbs, and other ingredients are at the produce market and don't be afraid to accent it with a liqueur for extra flavor. The possibilities are endless with a great bottle of cachaça and a muddler in your hand, so have fun and see where your taste buds take you.