No I was not in Brazil, but I was told by friends to try out its national cocktail while in Lisbon, the lively capital of Portugal. Aren’t these two colorful countries related! Surely they share a long history, many ancestors, the same language and the love for exciting drinks. The Caipirinha is definitely one – fun to make, easy to drink, hard to pronounce.
What is the origin of Caipirinha?
Even though its origin remains a mystery, its birthplace is definitely Brazil. The word Caipirinha is the diminutive of the word caipira, which means “someone from the countryside” in Brazilian Portuguese. There is no definitive version of how the cocktail was created. However, its story is linked to the one of Cachaça, the Brazilian spirit it is principaly made of . One tale says that it was invented by the workers on the Brazilian sugar cane plantations who looked for a pleasant way to drink the cachaça they were helping to produce, adding lime juice and raw sugar to the alcohol. Another tale claims that Portuguese slave traders returning to Europe used limes to prevent scurvy on their ship, and added Cachaça they picked up in Brazil and sugar for sweetness. In the Brazilian city of Paraty, a document dating from 1856 tells of an epidemic of cholera in the area. The outbreak was stopped by a recipe that seems to be the origin of Caipirinha. – “a mixture of medium aguardente with water, sugar, and limes because it was prohibited to drink straight water”.
Nobody knows for sure exactly who made the first Caipirinha or when but it has become a National treasure.
How to prepare a Caipirinha?
The recipe is pretty straightforward:
- Cut two to three (depending on size) key limes into quarters. Roll the limes before cutting them. It helps release the juice and aromatic oils. Some people like to peel the limes before slicing but this eliminates the lime oil in the peel, which many believe to be essential for an ‘authentic’ taste. You may want to remove any seeds before muddling… unless you are fond of straining them through your teeth.
- Add two to three tablespoons of sugar to the lime slices (Brazilians like it VERY sweet).
- Muddle (mash) the sugar and limes together well.
- Add two to three shots of Cachaça.
- Stir well to thoroughly dissolve the sugar, add crushed ice, stir, and enjoy! You can put in some fresh mint leaves for added flavor.
Careful, this drink is stronger than you think! You won’t realise it until you’ve had three or four glasses and you start wobbling all over the place or performing samba moves on the tables!
How to pronounce it?
If you don’t want to repeat your order several times, or, let’s be straight, look stupid, you will have to practice your pronunciation.
Caipirinha is pronounced kai-pee-reen-Yah and Cachaça, kuh-shah-suh. Please repeat after me: KAI-PEE-REEN-YAH.
Where to drink the best Caipirinha in Lisbon?
Estaminé art food is a cosy and friendly small restaurant, just steps away from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. Joyce and Luis make the best Caipirinha in town. (Calçada do monte 86A, Lisbon, Portugal).
In the lively Bairro Alto neighborhood, the Decadente Restaurant and Bar serves great Portuguese food and amazing Caipirinhas. (Rua Sao Pedro de Alcantara 81, Lisbon 1250, Portugal).
Did you know ?
- Don’t call Cachaça Rum. You might get some Brazilians angry. While rum uses the more heavily processed molasses as its base, Cachaça is made with fermented juice of sugarcane. It is then aged in vats of aromatic indigenous woods like amburana, balsam or the yellow-flowered ipê tree, the floral emblem and National tree of Brazil.
- Also called Pinga, Caninha or Marvada, this Brazilian spirit is the third most consumed alcohol in the world.
- Only 1% of the production of Cachaça is exported which means 99% of it is consumed in Brazil.
- If you replace the Cachaça with Rum, it is called a Caipirissima. Substituted with Vodka, it becomes a Caipiroska and is well-liked in Finland and Sweden.
- Other variations very popular in Brazil are the Caipifrutas, prepared with fresh fruits like passion fruit (maracuja), strawberries (morango), blackberries (amoras), pineapples (abaci), and even cashew nuts.
- It is really fun to prepare Caipirinha in a large pitcher to share with friends on a hot summer evening!
Caipirinha has become very popular around the world. If you are visiting Lisbon, make sure to enjoy a glass of this tasteful cocktail while listening to Fado music! Cheers!