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A Daiquiri By Any Other Name...

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jul 15, 2005 5:33PM


When Chicagoist’s Bridgeport correspondent was growing up a “tropical drink” in our house meant a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler. Libations like margaritas and daiquiris usually entailed too much work to produce, especially when a cooler of beer was within reach and we had to conserve our collective energy for the consumption of charred meats. Years later when we first visited Brazil and sampled a caipirinha, we were floored.

Literally. We had to be carried back to the hotel and filled in on our faux pas later.

When we settled back home our initial attempts at mixing this popular Brazilian cocktail were- by and large- uneven mixtures so foul in taste that one friend dubbed it the “chupacabra.” We had no idea what we were doing wrong. After all, the caipirinha is nothing more than a glorified daiquiri. The basic recipes are the same; and cachaca- the spirit used in making the caipirinha- is essentially a kissing cousin of rum.

Unlike rum, which is distilled from molasses, cachaca is distilled from pure sugar cane juice. Most of what Chicagoist was told about cachaca is that it’s a smoother spirit than rum. Having sampled a fair number of different brands we found that's bullshit. As a stand-alone spirit cachaca generally has a harsh bite on the palate and a fiery nose that will sear your cortex and invade your most cherished memories. Prior to distillation the cane juice ferments in wood or copper containers for a few weeks. Because Brazil produces over 4,000 brands of cachaca the quality can vary from velvet smooth (Ypioca is the only cask-aged cachaca available in the States) to something with an overall consistency resembling medical waste. A few years back we finally learned to mix a very nice caipirinha with some tutoring/horse trading from the lovely Jorgina Pereira and the fine folks at Sinha’ Elegant Brazilian Cuisine. Following the jump we’ll give you some ground rules to making a perfect caipirinha. It can also work as a blueprint with which you can experiment, as we’ve since discovered that cachaca makes a great base for other fruits besides lime.

Here is our basic recipe for making a caipirinha, which Chicagoist serves in an old fashioned glass:

3 ounces cachaca
½ lime, quartered and squeezed
3 tablespoons simple sugar syrup
cracked or crushed ice

As we wrote previously, the quality of cachaca varies. Ypioca is cask-aged from one to three years, and the smoothest cachaca we've tasted. Sam’s Wine and Spirits sells a bar-sized liter of Ypioca Crystal for $15.99. Another cachaca we recommend is Pitú. Most cachaca bottles come with a sealed controlled pour spout, which makes it easier to measure your shot from a free pour. An eight-count should provide you the required amount in the recipe.

You also want to stock up on lots of limes and granulated sugar. The caipirinha requires vigorous muddling of limes and simple sugar syrup. One trick we learned is to roll your limes prior to cutting. Rolling the limes loosens the pulp from the rind, which yields more juice. Making simple syrup from sugar and warm water facilitates the muddling. You need to muddle this mixture thoroughly. If you don’t have a muddler a sturdy wooden spoon or potato masher will suffice. Or, if you’re a young bachelor with an innate fear of the kitchen, you can use one of those souvenir mini-bats sold at any ballpark gift shop.

Once you’re done muddling add the cachaca and ice to the mixture. You can shake it in a cocktail mixer or stir the drink with a swizzle stick. You’ll find that the cachaca makes a good base for the lime and sugar, resulting in a clean, refreshing taste and a dry finish depending on how much sugar you use. All the muddling and melting of ice also lessens the bite of the cachaca, making the caipirinha a smooth drink that goes down too easy.

Because cachaca takes to lime so well, we also found that it makes a good base for other fruits. Chicagoist has mixed caipirinhas using passion fruit, mangoes, tamarinds, nectarines, black cherries, raspberries, and blood oranges. You could also add a splash or two of limoncello to the mix for added flavor and thickness. For a nice aesthetic touch you can rim the lip of your glass with sugar and a lime wedge for a standout presentation.

The recipe isn’t just limited to cachaca, either. Since cachaca is an acquired taste you can make a caipirosca- with vodka as the main ingredient; or a rum-based caipirissima, which is...

another name for a daiquiri.