Yes, in Brazil we also toast the new year with champagne and we love good wine. But nothing beats preparing a fresh caipirinha to enjoy with family and friends 🙂
Caipirinha may be the most Brazilian of drinks. It is made with Cachaça, a Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane. Because rum is also made from unrefined sugar, U.S. stores tend to put cachaça and rum on the same shelf. The drinks, however, are not the same as some may think.
The drink’s name comes from caipira, which is a person from the countryside. Caipirinha means “little person from the countryside”. Brazilians use lots of diminutives to indicate either size or affection. As I see it, the diminutive is used here to show affection.
The history of caipirinhas
It is believed that the indigenous people and enslaved people created caipirinha. Many enslaved people worked in the sugar cane plantations and in the production of sugar. What was left of this production was a fermented beverage known as cane wine. The Spanish called it cachaza. The Jesuit referred to it as augoa ardente or “water that burns”. In Brazil, we say aguardente.
The enslaved people used to mix cane wine with fruit juice. This mix was often used in religious ceremonies and parties. Lime was probably the most used fruit in this mix. And that is likely how caipirinha was created.
Caipirinha and Caipirosca
As you see, the original caipirinha is made with cachaça and lime. The same drink made with vodka in Brazil is called caipirosca. The caipirinha de sake is also a big hit. Today you can find caipirinhas and caipiroscas done with virtually any fruit: they are called caipifruta.
It is difficult to describe how wonderful it is to be at the beach on a beautiful, sunny day in Brazil, drinking caipirinhas made with fresh fruit 🙂
The good news: It is easy to prepare a delicious caipirinha!
You will need:
- 2 table spoons of granulated sugar (brown sugar makes it even more delicious)
- 1 lime (or 2 small limes)
- 2 1/2 oz of cachaça (the quality of the cachaça, of course, is of the essence)
- Ice (crushed or in cubes; I love it with crushed ice)
Note: As a curiosity, in Brazil we have only one word for lime and lemon, which is limão. If you are in Brazil, you want the green ones for your caipirinhas.
- Wash the lime and cut it in 8 wedges (or in quarters, depending on its size) — not round slices!
- Seed the limes and remove the white parts in the core (this will prevent the drink from being bitter)
- Put the limes in a glass and the sugar over them
- Muddle (smash) them; you want to release the lime juice and dissolve the sugar
- Add the ice and a bit of cachaça, and mix it well
- Add the rest of the cachaça and shake it well (or stirr it really well). This is optional: Try mixing everything in the blender without turning the ice into water
- Your drink is ready! Traditionally, caipirinha is served in a short, wide glass.
Have fun 🙂 Just beware that cachaça is not for the faint of heart.
Now excuse me: I have to go make my own caipirinha 😉
In the capirinha vocabulary list below, (f) indicates a feminine noun and (m) indicates a masculine noun.
PT → EN
- Limão (m) = lime
- Açúcar (m) = sugar
- Colher (f) = spoon
- Colher de sopa (f) = table spoon
- Gelo (m) = ice
- Misturar = to mix
- Agitar / Chacoalhar = to shake
- Copo (m) = glass
- Beber / Tomar = do drink
- Delicioso/deliciosa = delicious
- Brindar = to toast, to raise a glass
- Saúde! = Cheers!