While no one really knows where the caipirinha came from (some say it started in the early 1900s as a cure for the Spanish flu), there’s no denying that the cocktail has arrived as one of those drinks you’ve just got to try — going to Brazil and not having a capiririnha would be like not eating poutine in Canada or skipping sushi in Japan. As in, it’s just. not. done.
But making the perfect caipirinha requires some solid understanding of cachaça (the alcohol used in the cocktail) and how the flavours blend together.
“A perfect caipirinha relies on three pillars,” explains our Rio de Janeiro Urban Adventures guide, Luiz. “The quality of the cachaça, how much lime juice you add, and how you actually squeeze the lime. One must know that cachaças are like wine — there are many brands and the older, the better.”
It’s really up to you how much cachaça to use — it just depends how much of a punch you want to pack! But 50mL per drink is the average recommended amount of cachaça to use. Same with the limes. If you like your drinks bitter, go with three limes, says Luiz. “But our favourite version is made with two limes.”
But the main trick, adds Luiz, is how you cut and squeeze the lime. “You’ve got to cut it into two halves so you can first see the white center — which then needs to be cut out in order to stop the juice from being too bitter. Then cut those halves into two new halves, quartering your lime. Now it’s time to mash the lime.”
You can choose to add sugar before or after you mash, but the most important part is that even though you’re mashing, you still need to be gentle. “Try to avoid too much pressure on the skin. Push the pulps instead,” says Luiz.
After that, add ice cubes to the top of the glass and shake, and you’re ready to go!
- 50 mL cachaça (or vodka if you can’t find cachaça)
- 2 tsp sugar (sugar cane or simple syrup, ideally)
- 1 lime cut into 4 wedges
- ice cubes or crushed ice
Muddle the lime and sugar in a glass, then add the cachaça. Serve on the rocks or with crushed ice. If you opt to use vodka, your cocktail will be a “caipiroska” — less authentic but equally delicious!