02 August 2011

Spicy caipirinha

My favorite cocktail? No doubt about it, the caipirinha! Brazil's classic drink of cachaça (a type of sugar cane liquor) mixed with muddled limes and sugar and lots of crushed ice is potent, refreshing and delicious - particularly in hot weather. There's something about a good caipirinha that always lifts my spirits and makes me feel like I'm on vacation somewhere warm and beautiful, listening to the smooth sounds of Tom Jobim or Vinicius de Moraes.

Our friend James over at Flavors of Brazil explains that the caipirinha is very serious business over in Brazil. Back in 2008, the country's Ministry of Agriculture decided to publish a decree stipulating what legally constitutes a caipirinha. The different fruit flavored versions that we often see in bars apparently don't cut it, and there are very specific technical regulations in terms of what kind of sugar and lime must be used. Cachaça is also no laughing matter. On September 15, 1661, the Portuguese crown authorized the production of this distilled liquor made from sugar cane juice. It has long been considered as a working man's drink, which might explain the meaning behind the word caipirinha, which literally means 'little hillbilly' or 'little hick'. 

To my unending dismay and puzzlement, it is really hard to get a good caipirinha here in France! Brazil's national drink has been exported worldwide and mastered by bartenders from Lisbon (where half-liter jugs for only 3-4 euros are the norm in the Bairro Alto neighborhood) to Long Island to Luanda. So much so that I almost always have a caipirinha any time that we take a holiday or a trip out of town.

Here in France though, it's a bit complicated! Bartenders often don't understand that the limes in a caipirinha (often shortened to caipi here) need to be muddled along with the sugar, not just thrown in at the end as an afterthought. More often than not, cheap rum is used in place of cachaça, creating a drink with an overwhelmingly strong and sickly taste. Crushed ice is the exception rather than the norm and replaced by a couple of big ice cubes. And to add insult to injury, lemons are often used in place of the limes!!! In other words, bars here are generally definitely not respecting the sacred rules of caipirinha making, as laid out by the Brazilian government! Luckily for me though, my husband Luis makes amazing cocktails and shakes up a wonderful caipirinha

On Saturday night, he decided to deviate from the norm a bit and jazz up his standard caipirinha with the addition of a bit of green chile. Wow, was it something! Spicy with just the right amount of kick and burn, it was a fabulous addition! If you're like us and like your cocktails to be refreshing with just a hint of spice, this is definitely for you! Pick up a bottle of cachaça at your liquor store (Luis used Pitú brand) and make this ASAP!

Makes 1 cocktail

1/2 lime, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon granulated white or brown sugar
1/4 small green chile, chopped
1 cup crushed ice
1 ounce cachaça

1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lime, sugar and green chile, ideally with a wooden cocktail muddler.

2. Add in the crushed ice and cachaça and shake, shake, shake vigorously and long enough such that your cocktail shaker is icy cold.

3. Pour into a lowball cocktail class and drink up right away. Remember to say saúde, as the Brazilians would!


  1. I have never tried Cachaça before but this definitely sounds like something I would like!

  2. Brings back memories...I could fly to Brazil for one of these!

  3. What a great idea!!! Spicy caipirinha! I'd love to try it!!! Bookmarked! :-)

  4. As much as I like Brazil, I have to say that cachaca never grew on me... I'll take a spicy caipiroska though! :D

  5. Oooh! I'll have to remember this. We're going to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and now I know what to drink :) Looks amazing, darling!

    Oh and our MacDonalds is actually not a McDonalds. It's a local restaurant that serves oxtail, salt fish and ackee and curried goat :)

  6. Just found your blog! you have some amazing recipes! This one in particular looks so scrumptious!! can't wait to browse around and bookmark :)
    -mini baker

  7. Aaaaahhhh, looks really refreshing .. I would love one right now on this hot summer day!

  8. i=I know - why do they use crappy rum in so many caipirinhas here? Love the addition of chile pepper!

  9. This really looks refreshing. I'm a first time visitor to your blog, so I took some time to browse through some of your earlier posts after reading this one. I am so glad I did that. You've created an interesting spot for your readers to visit and I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  10. Hi there! I just discovered your blog from your link on Flavors of Brazil. I love it! Great photos and *delicious* looking recipes - what an inspiration. I'm British but now live in Rio and have not tried adding chile to my caipirinha (yet!).

    Interestingly, many times when you ask for a caipirinha in Rio they will then ask whether you want it with vodka or cachaça and whether you want it with lime! First time they asked this I was confused as *my* definition of caipirinha must have cachaça and lime. But here they often use the term as a generic to mean almost anything - vodka and passion fruit for example!

    Anyway, I look forward to trying a spicy caipirinha soon and will definitely be browsing through more of your blog! Thanks, Tom

  11. Perfect caipirinha recipe! If you want to see several ways of preparing caipirinhas, some serious, some nice, and some really crazy, please check my blog: 1000caipirinhas.blogspot.com.

    This blog has a collection of YouTube videos from all the world with people teaching how to prepare caipirinha. I've tagged the videos to help you go around.