How to make the perfect caipirinha? This question is as old as time itself.
For centuries man has debated this, along with the classic ‘Why are we here?’, ‘Chicken or egg?’ and ‘No Code – classic album or failed experiment?’
(42, egg and classic album in case anyone needed clarification)
And to celebrate National Cachaça Day/Dia Nacional da Cachaça (September 13th), I thought I’d share with you the secret recipe for how to make the perfect caipirinha.
For anyone who is unsure of what a caipirinha actually is, give that rock a good shove and climb on out.
It’s Brazil’s national cocktail, made with Cachaça, sugar and lime.
What is Cachaca?
Cachaça, pronounced Kashasa, is a hard liquor (between 38% and 54% alcohol) and made from the distillation of fresh sugarcane juice. It’s been made since the 1500s, and it’s the 3rd most consumed spirit in the world (with an estimated 99% drank in Brazil… which shows how much they enjoy a good tipple).
So the question of how to make the perfect caipirinha sounds pretty simple, right? Alcohol, sugar and lime… slam them all in a cup and pour them down your face hole… right? WRONG!!!
The difference between a good caipirinha and a bad one is a country mile. Even with the right ingredients it’s possible to fluff it. Everyone has their own taste and preference… but there’s a right way and a wrong way.
Why cachaca is best for Caipirinha?
First of all you need to choose your Cachaça. Choose wisely.
Prices range from $1.50 up to $500, but let’s be sensible. If you’re using a $500 Cachaça to make a caipirinha then you’re either criminally insane, or you’re rich enough to probably not be reading awesome travel blogs.
If you head to the lower end of the spectrum, it’s likely you’ll go blind. Whoever invented sweetened Cachaça needs punching in the soul.
Velho Barreiro is probably as low as my stomach would allow me to go. Too much of it can make your eyes go a bit yellow, but you’ll still have control over most of your bodily functions.
Pitu is probably the most drinkable bad Cachaça. It’s cheap as chips, but the morning after resembles an apocalypse movie.
So what’s a good Cachaça? The best definitely tend to come from the state of Minas Gerais. They make a mighty fine Cachaça in Minas.
Great brands include:
- Lua Nova
These are fine Cachaças indeed, but they’re not easily found in most supermarkets. So let’s be sensible and aim for a solid brand that’s easily found.
You can’t really go wrong with a bottle of 51. It’s still pretty cheap, but the lasting damage is minimal. It gives a nice round taste to the caipirinha but doesn’t overpower it.
But if I could choose any of the reasonably priced Cachaça, I’d have to go with Ypioca. If sunshine could be distilled into a hard liquor, it would take the form of Ypioca Prata. If it wasn’t a tad risky, I’d mainline it. Man, I love me a good bottle of Ypioca!
How to make the perfect caipirinha?
So now you’ve found your perfect Cachaça, it’s time to get down to the business of how to make the perfect caipirinha.
When it comes to limes, the juicier the better. You’ll ideally want a thin, smooth skin… not lumpy.
Green, fresh… simple.
When it comes to the sugar, you’ll want a fine sugar. A thick lumpy sugar is a foul addition to any caipirinha. Sucking through a straw and you get a mouthful of undissolved sugar? Get out of town!
Take your time and find a nice powdery sugar. Lumps are the enemy!
And now comes the contentious part… how to combine these fine ingredients to create a glass of magic?
There are a couple of different strategies, and I’m sure many an eye has been blackened during fiery debates.
Stir or shake? Shake or stir?
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back up sparky.
You will need:
- a shaker
- 2 good sized limes
- a muddler
- A long-handled spoon (optional, depending on whether you want to shake or stir)
- 1 tablespoon of fine sugar
- lots of ice.
- a bottle of Ypioca
- your favourite glass (size dependant on your love of the drink)
- Wash the lime, and then remove the tops and bottoms. Just enough to expose the fruit underneath
- Chop the limes into 8 (half, half, half).
- Drop them into your shaker.
- Pour the sugar over the limes.
- Take your muddler and give it all a good smooshing. Don’t destroy the limes… just encourage them to release their heavenly juices.
- Fill the shaker with ice, whilst still leaving a little breathing room.
- Pour the delicious Ypioca over the ice. Between 4 and 6 seconds provides a silky smooth balance. A longer pour leads to mischief and smiles, but comes with a potential morning-after headache warning.
- If you favour the stirring method, now is the time to get your long-handled spoon, dig it in deep and give it 6 firm swirls.
- If you favour the shaking method, place the lid on the shaker and shake it with passion. It helps if you channel the power of your inner Brazilian and shake your body whilst shaking the shaker. The body shaking is directly proportional to the eventual taste.
- After the shaking/stirring, it’s time to pour into your favourite glass. Make sure you get a good mix of lime, ice and liquid.
I speak with such confidence as I’ve made one or two of these in my time, and even shared a few with others. No one has ever walked away from my caipirinhas with anything less than a huge smile.
But I can’t claim to make the best.
The title of best caipirinha in Brazil must go to a quiet man, who works out of a tiny little street bar in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro.
I am of course referring to Coelho Da Lapa (The Rabbit of Lapa).
You can… nay must find him here on Google Maps and here on Tripadvisor. Not to be confused with the 8 Mile Rabbit, this Brazilian wizard was invited to represent his country in the Festival Clin d’Oeil Reims 2017… THAT’S how good he is at making caipirinhas!
He also makes other fruity variations, of which there is an endless list. Any fruit you can eat, you can mix with Cachaça to make a juicy cocktail.
It’s also well worth getting an idea of the process behind the bottle.
Dublin has the Guinness and Whiskey Tours, which are amazing. No less impressive are the Cachaça Tours. Here you’ll learn all about the history of the beverage, going back to the times of slavery up to the modern artisanal brands. Minas Gerais, Paraty, Sao Paulo… they’re scattered all around and vary in depth and quality, but you’ll usually get a really good sampling wherever you go.
You can find lots more great information over at www.brazil-help.com where they share more of the history, some other funky recipes, and a multitude of alternative names for Cachaça including such bizarre ones as Pinga, champanha-da-terra and salsaparrilha-de-brístol.
Can you drink Cachaca straight?
Absolutely. Obviously the cheap ones taste like battery acid, but the good/more expensive ones are a delight either pure or with an ice cube.
Can Cachaca go bad?
Eventually, yes. Sadly oxidization happens to all good liquor, but it’s a slow process. Kept in good conditions (room temperature, no major fluctuations, no direct sunlight) a bottle could last 10 years or longer.
Can you buy Cachaca in the UK?
Absolutely. It’s not usual to find it in the high street shops, but not impossible. You can definitely find lots of different brands of Cachaca on Amazon.co.uk
Can Cachaca substitute for rum?
Are you insane? Get out of my party! And wash your mouth out too… you crazy!
When to drink Cachaca?
Any day ending in Y is good, although I wouldn’t go too wild on a school night.
How does Cachaca taste? What is cachaca similar to?
It’s a hard liquor so don’t expect a taste explosion in your mouth. The more expensive ‘artisanal’ brands definitely have flavour – woody tones, fruity light highlights, smooth and without burn etc Let the flavours wash over your tongue with a closed mouth and you should discover the subtleties.
So what do you think? Excited to go hit the bottle? Drunk already? Do you agree with my system for how to make the perfect caipirinha? I’d love your thoughts and comments below.