Lime, sugar and Cachaca (Brazilian rum)… it doesn’t get much easier than that!
This is the national cocktail of Brazil that was said to be first made by farmers in the 19th century due to their large scale cultivation of sugar cane.
And it’s damn good.
Like many other cocktails of its’ generation the Caipirinha is simple and seems as if it could have been a more delicious spin-off of some type of traditional medicine.
The drink has recently made its’ way to other parts of the world and serves as the perfect refreshing cocktail for just about any occasion.
So let’s get into it.
So what is Cachaca?
Put simply, it’s Brazilian rum, but there’s obviously more to it than that.
Most of the time rum is made from molasses or other products of the sugar refining process so it has flavor notes of caramel, toffee and spices, but Cachaca is different.
Cachaca is made from fresh cane Juice.
But why does that matter? Well, it results in quite a different flavor from a usual rum. It has notes of overripe fruit, green grass, and a bold “funkiness”. Not funk like spoiled or bad, but like a strong ester funk that reminds me of green vegetation and the flavor of tomato gazpacho, if you’ve ever had that.
And much like the way Scotch Whiskey can only be from Scotland, fresh cane rum can only be labeled as Cachaca if it comes from Brazil.
There are a few different age categories for Cachaca, but for this cocktail you are looking for a Branca (white) version that has been only aged very quickly yielding lots of bright young flavor similar to a blanco tequila.
What other ingredients to use
Pretty standard here seeing as it’s just limes and sugar, but the type of sugar is important.
You want to use a minimally processed cane sugar that will compliment that Cachaca and actually add some flavor to the drink, and not just bland sweetness.
Demerara or Turbinado can also be used if you want to add a bit of toffee and caramel notes to the drink. Try it with each type of sugar and see what you like best.
There is also a version of the Caipirinha that uses vodka called the Caipiroska which you could try out, but so much of what makes this drink unique is the bold flavor of Cachaca so I encourage you to try the original version!
How to make the Caipirinha
There are a few choices you have when you make this cocktail…
- The ratios of the ingredients
- Whether to Shake it or build it right in the glass
Here’s what I use
I go for a ratio of 2 oz Cachaca, half of a lime, and a little more that 2 tsp of cane sugar. This ratio gives you balance between all the flavors while still having a refreshing tartness.
The lime will stand up really well to the sugar since you are muddling it to help pull out the flavorful oils from the skin, so if you like it a little sweeter don’t be afraid to add some more sugar!
Many recipes also bump up the amount of Cachaca to 2 1/4 or even 2 1/2 ounces, and if you like more of that funky rum flavor, or like a really strong drink, then go for it.
Now let’s make it
Whether you choose to build it in the glass or shake it there’s one rule you need to follow when making Caipirinhas: MUDDLE THE LIME!
Don’t squeeze in lime juice, or put in one little wedge. Cut a lime in half the long way, then cut one of those halves down the middle, then again into thirds so you have 6 little lime pieces.
lay the lime flat once you cut it in half the long way, NOT like in the pictures above (that was for photo purposes only).
Once you lime is cut, add all six little pieces from the half to your glass or shaker, pour the sugar right on top and give them a real good muddle. Sometimes you need to be delicate when muddling but this is not one of those times.
Give the lime wedges a real firm muddle for 15 seconds or so to pull out flavors from the peel, extract the juice and help dissolve some of the sugar.
Then add in the Cachaca and ice and finish it up!
To shake, or to stir?
It seems like recipes are split pretty evenly on whether you should shake or stir the Caipirinha.
But I like to shake.
I prefer the way it ads a bit of extra dilution, gets it super cold, and makes it a tad lighter by aerating the ingredients. The finished cocktail is more uniform, and it will help to dissolve all the sugar and beat the lime around a little more.
But if you are after a stronger drink, don’t have a shaker or just can’t be bothered, then build it in the glass. The resulting drink will be quite similar, just a bit more like a bold rum Old Fashioned than a light Daiquiri.
Should you choose to stir simply muddle the limes with sugar right in the glass before adding the Cachaca and ice. Then stir for about 25 seconds or so.
Regardless of the method you go with, I suggest you use cracked ice.
It will give it some added dilution, and it is the same size as the lime pieces so it creates a nice looking even texture for the drink. Not entirely necessary, but it’s a nice extra step.
To crack ice cradle a cube in your palm and give it a really hard wack with the back of your barspoon. Ice will fly out of your hand, and you will probably make a mess, but you will be left with some to drop into the drink.
Use about 5 standard size ice cubes worth preferably made out of filtered water.
I hope you get the chance to make this one the next time you are in the mood for something summery.
It’s a solid crowd pleaser that you can prepare for ahead of time by setting up a little station with pre-cut limes, and train your guests to make for themselves.
Caipirinha Cocktail Recipe
- 2 oz Branca Cachaca - (White)
- 1/2 of a Lime
- 2-3 tsp Cane Sugar
- Prepare a lime by slicing it in half the long way.
- Then lay one half flat and cut it into six pieces to use for one drink.
- Add the six little lime wedges to your shaker and add the sugar on top.
- Muddle firmly for about 15 seconds.
- Add in Cachaca.
- Crack ice into your shaker (about 5 standard size cubes) and shake for around 10 seconds.
- Pour the entire contents of your shaker into a chilled glass.
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This is a perfect drink to make for a summer party.
Cut up the limes ahead of time and put out the cachaca and a bowl of sugar, and teach your guests how to make them for themselves!