The best caipirinha ever

cropped caipirinha
Photo by Jon Rawlinson/Flickr

What makes caipirinha, Brazilian national drink, unique? A mix of lime, sugar, cachaça and ice – you will answer.  Not so fast, my friend.

The same way you cannot make a bacteria by putting together a bunch of proteins and carbs, you won’t be able to produce caipirinha by simply mixing its ingredients.

But first, a little History. Nobody knows, for sure, who conceived the first caipirinha. Some believe it was invented by slaves, who might have mixed garapa (sugar cane juice), lime and cachaça (which, you know, is distilled from sugar cane). Others believe it was originally meant for medicinal purposes – honey, garlic and lime were mixed to cachaça to cure colds, a prescription popular to these days. But my favorite version is told by Ernesto Britto, from Caipirinha Club. “In old times, people used to put cloths damped in alcohol on the forehead to reduce the fever and suck limes to improve the immunity. According to the legend, a feverish guy was sucking a lime and the alcohol dripped from his forehead to his mouth. Because it was bitter, he ate a spoon of sugar and, this way, came up with the idea for the drink”, he tells.

Also, nobody knows for sure why it was named that way – caipira is the native of rural parts of the state of São Paulo. Caipirinha might be his young daughter (the suffix inha indicates somebody young or small). Go figure.

All I know is it evolved to its present composition, which was made official by a 2003 federal decree (so the country can keep the intellectual property and the trade mark).

So, back to the secrets. Here are 10 tips to make your caipirinha experience unforgettable.  They were collected from interviews with barmen from all over the country:

1) You cannot make this drink in bulk. Make one at a time, or the volume will make the whole beverage bitter.

2) Use white sugar, not raw.

3) If possible, use clear cachaça of good quality, that should be poured after all the other ingredients. If you have access to some artisan brand, even better.

4) The lime should have a shiny and smooth skin – they have more juice.

5) Slice the lime in four or eight pieces and remove  the seeds and the white line that lays in the middle. Use half a lime per cup. And keep a small slice to decorate the (short, wide) cup.

6) Be delicate when smashing the limes. You want to free all the juice, but you don’t want to break the peel.

7) In Brazil, we prefer to use ice cubes  – it takes longer for the drink to become watery. In colder countries, such as Portugal, barmen tend to prefer crushed ice.

8) Mix it with a spoon or a bar spoon (the one with a very long handle). Some barmen also recommend avoiding the cocktail shaker, that might disintegrate the limes.

9) Don’t use a straw (even if it is frequently used in Brazil). Caipirinhas should be tasted with the whole mouth, not only the throat.

10) Combine it with some classic Brazilian dishes, such as churrasco (barbecue) or feijoada (a  stew of black beans with pork and several side dishes, including rice, collard greens, pealed orange, cassava flour, and red pepper sauce). It is also great with all sort of petiscos (the Brazilian equivalent of the Spanish tapas).

Now, check this great video where a barman shows step by step how to reach caipirinha nirvana (although he uses the cocktail shaker – nobody is perfect!).

Also, check this post: 10 Brazilian drinks as cool as caipirinha

Any comments, guys? Any tips of your own of good memories of caipirinhas by the beach?

10 thoughts on “The best caipirinha ever”

  1. Regina,

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  2. Wow, I had no idea making a caipirinha could be so involved! I’ve been told I make a pretty good one myself, and when there’s a party, I am often called on to make a whole batch. I’m no connoisseur, but I _do_ make a bunch at a time, I’ve found if you pour them out quickly after making them (usually without the limes themselves) they don’t get bitter. I’ve tried reusing the limes which is a terrible mistake and does make for a bitter drink.

    When my mother was here one time a German tourist told her that only tourists drink Caipirinhas- I beg to differ!

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  4. Wow, great video, I will recommend it to my husband (b.t.w hubby does makes excellent ones, hehehe…). I just didn’t like the end of the video: “Just taste it to make sure it is good…” and then you are supposed to offer it to someone ???? After taking a sip of it ? hahahaha !!!!!!!!!!

  5. yeah! i do it correctly, step by step! sagatiba and armazém vieira are my brands, i love caipirinha!

    cheers from spain!

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