The canny caipirinha

It’s wonderful how I pick up on the leading edge of trends–or at least how it seems that way to me. I find something great, enjoy it, share it, then discover that it was already a known Great Thing in happenin’ places three years ago and I’ve just been swept along on the current of pop culture. No matter; I enjoy great things all the same.

Take, for example, the caipirinha.

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To make a caipirnha–Sparks’ favorite summer cocktail, when gin & tonic isn’t his favorite summer cocktail–you need some specialized ingredients. First, you need a bottle of cachaca. Cachaca is Brazilian moonshine–sugarcane liquor. Sparks hastens to tell you that there is no such thing as top-shelf cachaca; it is supposed to be cheap, so go for the cheapest kind you can find (he likes Ypioca, which he pronounces “yippee-kai-yay”).

You’ll also need cane sugar. Most of the white sugar sold in the baking aisle is beet sugar, so if you’re able and willing, do spring for a bag of the cane kind. As I said in the mojito post, it gives you a nice clean virtuous feeling about your drink, for reasons you can’t quite explain.

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Caipirinhas are pretty lethal, so you’ll want a small glass. A juice glass, or an old fashioned, are just fine. Notice that I’m not using the pretty colored glass bubbles from the mojito post; oh no no no. That would be a mistake.

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You’ll also need some nice fat limes (which is the only kind you ever need. By “fat limes” I mean the big ones, the size of lemons. The ones you buy individually instead of in a bag. The expensive ones. Sparks is thrifty but not cheap.) Cut the ends off of a fat lime, quarter it, then chop two of the quarters into about three pieces each.

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Like so.

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Put your half a lime in the glass along with a teaspoon or more of cane sugar.

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And begin to muddle. The goal is to grind all of the juice out of the lime, as well as some of the essential oil from the rind. Sparks is using his half-a-rolling-pin muddler here, but he often uses a wooden spoon, and says that he sort of things the wooden spoon works better.

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When you’re tired of muddling, fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice. Now, a lot of people can get crushed ice out of the door of their fridge/freezer. I’m not sure that that is quite what you want, here. One of the things that makes a caipirnha good is the way the ice melts into it. Chipped ice from your freezer door may be a little too perfectly chipped, leading to a slow melt. Since my freezer doesn’t chip ice at all, Sparks crushes it on the garage floor with a meat tenderizing mallet. Inside of a plastic bag, of course. Notice that the ice is about half chips and half “snow”.

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Now pour in cachaca up to the top of the ice. I told you these were lethal. This is why you don’t want to make this drink in a big glass!

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So here we are with the cachaca poured, before stirring…

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And here we are after stirring, with the liquor and ice and lime juice and sugar all nicely mixed. Because the ice chips are still melting, the drink will get weaker as you let it sit. Even once you have drunk all of the cachaca, you’re still going to have a tasty concoction of sugar and lime juice and melted ice. Yum.

Caipirinhas. Do try them. This weekend we were at a restaurant that advertised a strawberry caipirinha… I think we’re going to have to try that.

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