The Caipirinha is made with a base of cachaça, a 500-year-old, sugar cane-derived spirit. Combine the popularity of the Martini and the Cosmopolitan, and you have Brazil’s national drink—the Caipirinha, or Cachaça Sour. The Portuguese word politely translates as “little man from the country,” or, less politely, as “yokel.” The Caipirinha is drunk from lunch until bedtime, which may come sooner than anticipated. It has been popular throughout Brazil for longer than anyone can remember, which is not a surprise, given the potency of the drink and the frequency with which it is drunk.
Cachaça is a spirit akin to rum in that it is made from unrefined sugar, but the similarity stops there. Cachaça is a sharper, tart liquor that is tamed into seduction when muddled with lime and sugar.
Brazil, being consistently more temperate—if not downright more sultry—than other parts of the world, offers the ideal climate for sipping a Caipirinha and watching the rest of the world go by. The first warm days of spring through the end of summer are best suited for this refreshing drink.
The Caipirinha is a down-to-earth, honest drink that requires no ostentation. A good old-fashioned glass is all you need. The Caipirinha will do the rest. Until recently, only two brands of cachaça were generally available outside of Brazil: Pitú and Toucano. While not as complex, Pitú has a brashness and joviality that is more common to the Caipirinha found on the streets of Rio. Stick with regular granulated sugar, which will properly muddle the lime.
Caipirissima: Use rum in place of the cachaça.
Caipirosca: Use vodka in place of the cachaça.