How To Make The Perfect Caipirinha - Everytime

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With Cachaça, the Spirit of Brazil

With the recent explosion of Cachaça and its cocktail sidekick, the Caipirinha, more and more bartenders and home entertainers are wondering how to make the perfect Caipirinha. How should I cut the limes? Superfine sugar? Can I use simple syrup? Shaken or stirred? Club soda? How long do I muddle? Cachaça?

Like any great cocktail, art and skill are required to make a great Caipirinha. Too much of any one thing - lime, sugar, or Cachaça - and the delicious concoction from Brazil will be anything but delicious. Too sour, too sweet, or too much Cachaça, and you have a cocktail out of balance. And like life, it's all about balance for any great cocktail.

Steve Luttmann and Gerry Schweitzer, the founders of Leblon Cachaça recommend that you start with the basics: What is a Caipirinha, and how is it made? The national cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha is a combination of muddled lime, sugar, and Cachaça served on the rocks in a rocks glass. Take a good size lime cut it into 8 wedges, and place 4 wedges in a rocks glass. Add two teaspoons of sugar, mash the lime and sugar with a muddler for 15 seconds, and add crushed ice up to the rim of the glass. Add two ounces of Cachaça, stir thoroughly, and garnish with a lime wedge. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Just like a Margarita, Mojito, or a Cosmopolitan, there are a lot of mistakes that are made in preparing a Caipirinha. We at Leblon Cachaça have "seen it all," from the New York bartender who takes a single lime wedge and squeezes it between their thumb and middle finger into the glass, to the hot Hollywood nightclub that uses a thick raw sugar that doesn't dissolve in the cocktail when muddled, to the restaurant in Philly who uses the sour mix gun with a twist of lemon. Easy mistakes to make, but easily avoided once you learn the Caipirinha basics, and adapt the recipe to fit your needs.

Here are simple thoughts that may help you in perfecting your Caipirinha:

  • First, use lime. When making a classic caipirinha, it is best to avoid using a key lime. Persian or Mexican limes are the best choice. Cut them fresh, as pre-cut limes will lose flavor and juiciness. And don't use sour mix (By the way, the same rules apply to a Margarita; why use a mix when fresh tastes so much better?). Wedges are more 'authentic' than wheels, but some prefer wheels because they look better. We've seen people cut the wedges into cubes, which arguably makes the muddling easier, as well as the stirring. Many recommend cutting out the bitter middle pith from the lime.
  • The goal of muddling is to extract the lime juice from the limes. Fifteen seconds is about right - less than fifteen seconds, and you are guaranteed not to have enough lime juice in the glass. More than fifteen seconds, and the lime juice starts becoming bitter (from the interior wall of the rind, or the middle spine if you left it in). Obviously, if you don't have a muddler, any rigid wooden or plastic device with a cylindrical shape will do. However, you can now get a muddler just about anywhere. Just go and get one. If you like, we'll provide one free - just visit Leblon Cachaça.
  • The traditional Brazilian recipe for a Caipirinha calls for superfine sugar. Like 'sweet tea' in the Southern U.S., superfine sugar dissolves much better than regular sugar. Muddling the sugar granules with the lime wedges also extracts the oils from the lime zest, adding more lime aroma and flavor to your Caipirinha. However, we have learned that many bartenders prefer using simple syrup to sugar, and for one simple reason: simple syrup dissolves immediately in the Caipirinha. It's a standard staple of any professional or home bar. It guarantees that the sugar will be thoroughly dissolved and mixed in the cocktail, and will not collect at the bottom of the glass.
  • Shaken or stirred? This is definitely an interesting argument. The Brazilian purist will insist on stirring for one simple reason: that's what they do in Brazil. It's almost like a ritual. The bartender muddles the lime, adds the Cachaça and ice, and gives the Caipirinha a few stirs with a spoon and adds a swivel stick or straw. The customer receives the Caipirinha, gives it a few stirs, takes a sip, and begins the process of letting the Caipirinha 'melt and meld' while enjoying its evolution to perfection. This is kind of cool, and if you're a Brazilian purist, or a Brazilian, you get it. However, the reality is many of us want a great tasting Caipirinha perfect right from the start, and shaking is the optimal way to ensure the mixing and melding of all the ingredients. No questions asked.
  • Cachaça! The key ingredient. Without Cachaça, a Caipirinha simply would not exist. It's like making a Margarita with Rum, or a Cosmo with Tequila. A Caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, is made with Cachaça, the national spirit of Brazil. Substitute the Cachaça with Rum or Vodka, and it becomes something else - not just in name, but in taste, flavor, and culture. The uniqueness of the Cachaça - the lively aroma of the fresh cane and the fruity flavor mixing with the lime - is what makes the Caipirinha great.
  • As you've probably figured out and seen on various cocktail menus and restaurants, the Caipirinha has a lot of legs. Sure, the lime version is the classic, and it should be - the perfect combination of the sweet, the sour and the fruit. However, there is a lot that can be created and explored substituting or adding alternative fruits to the recipe. Think about the array of fresh fruits that you can find, and which ones are your favorites, and you have some great Fresh Fruit Caipirinha options. In Brazil, some of the most popular are passion fruit (maracuja), pineapple (abacaxi), mixed berries (frutas vermelhas), and grape (uva) Caipirinhas. However, the list goes on from there: Tangerine, Kiwi, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Orange, Pomegranate, Peach, Grapefruit, Kumquat, and Melon. Throw in some herbs, like Cilantro, Mint, or even Basil (one of my favorites is Strawberry and Basil). Try Watermelon - with Cilantro and Red Pepper. Or Pineapple - with Mint. Or Cucumber with honey and lime. You get the idea.

We at Leblon Cachaça are committed to bringing this exciting new spirit and cocktail to the world. We are committed to raising quality, in both the making of the Caipirinha and the nobility of the base spirit itself. To learn more, please visit Perfect Caipirinha.

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Jaime Keller
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