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.
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.