Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Summer of Caipirinhas

I had dinner down at Shine the other day, and one of their specialty drinks is the Caipirinha, which is supposedly the national drink of Brazil. Shine's version won me over, and it's taken a high place on my list--right up there with the mojito and a (proper) margarita--of the best drinks for summer.

Cachaca is a fermented beverage made from the juice of sugar cane juice. It's similar to rum, but rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar cane processing, rather than from sugar cane juice itself.

Shine uses Cachaca 51, the best selling brand of Brazilian cachaca, and adds Clements Orange Liqueur, which uses rum as its base (rather than brandy, which is used by Grand Marnier, or neutral spirits, which are used in most triple secs). The orange liqueur is Shine's added touch: the traditional Caipirinhas recipe just has lime and sugar.

I happened to be fresh out of Cachaca in my home liquor cabinet, but I improvised with some dark rum and it was still a great drink. Shine uses brown sugar for theirs, but white sugar is more traditional. I tried it both ways and think both are good.

Here are the basics:

Cut a lime into slices and place in a glass. Pour in 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar (or perhaps a bit more) and muddle until the lime is throughly mooshed and the sugar is all dissolved:

Add two ounces of whatever liquor you're using--cachaca if you got it, but rum or vodka are common substitutes--add crushed ice and stir.

If you want to goose it up a little like Shine does, add a splash of your favorite orange liqueur. This is a great, refreshing summertime drink, and it prevents scurvy, too. Now I just need to get my hands on a real bottle of cachaca . . .

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