The biggest country in South America didn’t gain that title by playing it safe, Brazil holds a population of over 200 million proud people, and they’re known for an abundance of things. For example, they churn out supermodels like nobody else, it houses one of the 8 wonders of the world, their week long Carnaval, and their national spirit- Cachaça. It is no coincidence they included it in their national cocktail the Caipirinha. Chances are, you passed it up because you couldn’t pronounce the name, but not to worry by the end of this read you’ll be fully fluent.
Caipirinhas are very simple to make, they only truly contain three ingredients: Cachaça, limes, and sugar. The kind of sugar you use does alter the drink a bit, white sugar overpowers the tart and makes it sweeter, while brown sugar gives the whole thing a bolder flavor, and yes, some recipes call for the muddling of limes but that’s all completely up to you. Depending on the kind of Cachaça you use, the drink averages a 30% ABV.
The word itself is said to be derived from the word, “caipira” and if you thought they speak Brazilian in Brazil, you’re dead wrong. They speak Portuguese, or Brazilian Portuguese, of course this is due to their motherland country- Portugal. One source claims Caipirinha is derived from the word, “caipira” which is slang for someone born in the countryside of south-central Brazil cities like Sao Paolo, like a “hillbilly” or “peasant” in English.
Depending on your preference, a Caipirinha tastes both tart and sweet, the only thing we can recommend is don’t drink one right after brushing your teeth. It can be compared to Brazil’s version of a mojito, but you’d be insulting the history and rightful place of Cachaça and Caipirinhas.
Cachaça is sometimes confused for rum, and while they may seem similar, Cachaca is definitely the more natural of the two. It is distilled from sugarcane, and rum is usually made from by-products like molasses.
Due to it’s simple ingredients, Caipirinhas have been modified through time and many different versions exist. There’s a version for every fruit under the sun, some recipes mix in coffee and coconut, and while it’s kind of rude to use anything else than Cachaça, some sub it for rum and… vodka. By by that point it becomes an entirely different cocktail known as a Caipiroska.
However, we doubt it will ever be as highly regarded as the OG Caipirinha, mostly due to the fact that The International Bartenders Association has designated it as one of its Official Cocktails. A tremendous honor to Brazil and Cachaça, so how was the Caipirinha born?
A Brief History:
To trace a Caipirinha’s origins we have to look to the history of the word which, according to Difford’s Guide, originated in the city of São Paulo in the south of Brazil. Which points at the beginning of this drink to be a simple remedy among the poor people who worked on sugarcane fields and made its way to the tables of high class people. We found these possible origins so take your pick:
One version, provided by Carlos Lima, executive director of IBRAC (Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) dates back to 1918 Brazil. Apparently, throughout hospital in the region of Alentejo in Portugal, the recipe included lemon, garlic, and honey, and it was used to aid patients with the Spanish flu which took over Brazil at the end of World War I. A lot of locals still use it today as a remedy for the common cold, except before Cachaça came about, folks used the Colombian Aguardiente, which we covered here.
Wikipedia cites that historians pinpoint the origin to According to historians, the caipirinha we know today to landowning farmers from the region of Piracicaba, near the State of São Paulo, during the 19th century. They showcased it as the drink for high standard events and parties, to show off their rich sugarcane fields and plantations.
The folks over at Mapa de Cachaça dug a little deeper and found the origins of the Caipirinha may actually come from Paraty, in Rio de Janeiro. They claim to have found a record historian Paraty Diuner Mello, who discovered a document from 1856 that included a reference to the cocktail to aid an epidemic of cholera in the area at the time. The document cited a prescription of the recipe we know today by a civil engineer named João Pinto Gomes Lamego.
In the years that followed any one of those tails, thanks to first-rate brands of Cachaça outside Brazil, the drink has become a staple and a hit in the classic cocktail category and few menus are considered complete without it. This is great news because it means you don’t have to fly to Brazil for a great Caipirinha!
The pronunciation is: kai-purr-REEN-yah.
Say it after having a few, and you’ll fool anyone.
While your Portuguese accent might need some work, the recipe we provided should make you a pro quicker than you can say, “muito obrigado” which means “thank you very much” in Portuguese.
If you give ours a shot, let us know how it turned out via Instagram! Did you muddle limes? What sugar did you go for? We love to hear your feedback!
Thanks for reading, and as always…