Although it is the most popular distilled spirit in Brazil, the majority of people here in the states know little about the strong South American beverage called Cachaça. In its native land, close to four million gallons of the stuff are consumed annually, with a minuscule one percent of its product shipped elsewhere in the world (mainly to Germany, of all places). Caipirinha, the most popular beverage containing Cachaça, also happens to be Brazil’s national cocktail, although Cachaça can be included in a variety of other excellent tropical cocktails. Therefore, as we ride out on the coattails of summer, I thought Culture of Spirits readers may enjoy learning about the most popular beverage that can be made using this most unique rum-like (and very potent) spirit.
Cachaça is made from sugarcane alcohol, obtained from the fermentation of sugar cane juice (rather than molasses, like most rums) which is afterwards distilled. Acting as the primary liquor in the Caipirinha, it is not advised that this be drank alone in the absence of properly muddled lime wedges and sugar. Recently, Baltimore Sun night-life columnist Sam Sessa was bold enough to attempt this, resulting in the following:
Remember those cartoons where they drank something and coughed fire? Yeah, it was kinda like that. My eyes popped outta my head, too. This little bottle of cachaca packs a big whallop.
That being said, Sam would probably advise that you go ahead and take the time to mix up a Caipirinha properly. Therefore, let’s get right down to the recipe for the National Cocktail of Brazil, according to International Bartender’s Association standards. The ingredients for this drink are as follows:
* 5.0 cl (1⅔ fl oz) cachaça
* ½ Fresh Lime cut into 4 wedges
* 4 teaspoons Muscovado sugar
To prepare the drink, begin by placing the lime wedges and sugar into an old fashioned glass. Muddle the two ingredients together using a wooden or plastic muddler (a wooden spoon will work fine for this also). Top off the mixture with crushed ice, and finally, add the Cachaça. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Many makers of fine classic cocktails, especially the the Old Fashioned, will notice this drink is made very similar to how most bartenders make an Old Fashioned incorrectly, by first muddling orange or lemon in the bottom of the glass. However, this drink calls for it, as the tangy/sweet blend of sugars and citrus are necessary to compliment the harshness of the Cachaça).
A few variations of the drink include Caipifruita, which is the same drink served over crushed ice, with the inclusion of milk. Kiwis, passion fruit, pineapple, grapes, tangerines, and other various tropical fruits are common substitutes or additions for use with lime in the beverage. Also, any kind of fruit juices mix well with Cachaça, although these drinks are often mislabled as being the Caipirinha, when in reality, a different name, batida, exists for the simpler blend of juice and straight Cachaça. Regardless of which recipe you decide to use, any of these will no doubt provide a potent (and pleasing) addition to any of your upcoming late summer evenings. Enjoy!