Drink of the Week: Caipirinha

By Paul Nelson

We’re familiar with the major liquors that make up a majority of cocktails in the US: tequila, whiskey/bourbon, rum, gin, and vodka. Each has major brands that you’ll typically find in your liquor store or bar. Each also represents just one type of production or process. Around the world, there are other liquors that are similar in some respects to the ones we’re familiar with but different enough to be worth exploring.

If you enjoyed the pisco sour from a few weeks ago and would like another South American drink option, the single most popular drink in this category is the caipirinha. We learned about the caipirinha while hosting students from Switzerland who raved about it. I was quite surprised to learn of its decidedly non-Swiss origins. This is a Brazilian drink that utilizes a Brazilian liquor called cachaça. Cachaça is similar in some respects to rum; it comes in light and dark varieties and is made from sugar cane. While rum is made from the leftover remains of boiling sugar cane, cachaça is distilled from fresh, fermented sugar cane juice.

You can find cachaça at any good liquor store but probably not in your local supermarket. I tend to prefer the aged or dark cachaça, but the lighter works just as well (and is more traditional in the caipirinha).

  • ½ lime cut into four pieces
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (some recipes call for brown sugar, or you can try coconut sugar)
  • 2 oz. cachaça
  • ice

Cut up the lime and squeeze put the pieces into a glass after squeezing the juice into the glass. Add the sugar, and then muddle (squish/smash/mush) up the mixture to help extract additional juices and oils from the lime pieces. Add the cachaça and then stir in ice.

It’s a simple drink to make, very bright and lively from the lime juice and the cachaça. Make it sweeter or tarter by adjusting the proportions of sugar and lime. Enjoy!