The caipirinha (kai-purr-REEN-yah) is the national drink of Brazil. It's the most popular cocktail in the South American country, and everyone has their own way of making it. Today, it is a hit worldwide and should be on every home and pro bartender's essential drink list.
The basic caipirinha recipe is straightforward and requires just three ingredients: cachaça, lime, and sugar. Like the old-fashioned and mojito, this is a muddled cocktail, though the liquor of choice here is cachaça. Sometimes erroneously called Brazilian rum, it's distilled from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Cachaça is not as sweet as rum and has a grassy, vegetal taste that is wonderful when enhanced with the caipirinha's sweet lime flavor.
A favorite summertime cocktail, the caipirinha is one of the most refreshing drinks you can mix up. It's the perfect introduction for anyone new to cachaça and an excellent way to explore and compare different brands. Plus, it can serve as inspiration for many other tasty drinks.
Click Play to See This Caipirinha Recipe Come Together
- 1/2 lime
- 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar, to taste
- 2 ounces cachaça
- Garnish: lime wheel
Gather the ingredients.
Cut half of a lime into small wedges.
Place the lime and sugar into an old-fashioned glass and muddle well.
Top the drink with cachaça and stir well.
Fill the glass with small ice cubes or cracked ice, stir again, and garnish with a lime wheel. Serve and enjoy.
- Superfine sugar is a better choice for cocktails because the finer crystals dissolve more easily. This is particularly useful in a cocktail like a caipirinha, which doesn't have a lot of liquid or hard-core mixing.
- Don't worry about hunting down a specialty sugar. It's very easy to transform ordinary sugar into superfine sugar with a food processor or blender.
- Use the recommended range of sugar to customize the cocktail's sweetness to your taste and the cachaça you're pouring. Some cachaças are sweeter than others, and quite a few are aged, so there are times when less sugar creates a better drink.
- Though not traditional, simple syrup is a good substitute for superfine sugar; use about 3/4 ounce of syrup. Agave nectar and honey syrup can also act as the sweetener.
Build on the caipirinha by adding extra flavor or taking its flavor into a different style of drink. Using these variations as an inspiration, see what new fruits, herbs, and other ingredients are at the produce market, and don't be afraid to accent it with a liqueur for extra flavor.
- The caipirini is a shaken version that serves the drink martini-style.
- Transform the lime-cachaça mix into a summer treat by making ice pops.
- Toss a few berries into the glass for a raspberry caipirinha, or try a combination like blueberries with lemon and lime wedges.
- For a spiced citrus twist, mix up a kumquat-ginger caipirinha.
- In the homecoming caipirinha, autumn flavors abound with apple, cinnamon, and sage.
- A spiced pear caipirini is ideal for colder months with its mix of pear nectar, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Can You Make a Caipirinha Without Cachaça?
When the caipirinha gained international fame, bartenders began to remake the cocktail. Not only were a variety of flavors added, but it also became common to swap the cachaça out for another liquor. Using the same recipe, these variations are not true caipirinhas, though they have taken on similar names:
- Caipirila: tequila
- Caipirissima: white rum
- Caipiroska: vodka
- Caipisake: sake
How Strong Is the Caipirinha?
Much like other liquor-only muddled cocktails, there is not much in the caipirinha to dilute the liquor. Factoring in a little lime juice and a meager amount of dilution, its alcohol content falls around 30 percent ABV (60 proof). It's always going to be slightly lower than the cachaça's bottling strength, so this is not a weak drink.
When Was the Caipirinha Invented?
Although it's ingrained in Brazilian culture, the history of the caipirinha is not clear. Some stories dated it to the 19th century, when it was enjoyed on sugarcane plantations. Another account says that it evolved from a medicinal tonic of cachaça, green lemon, honey, and garlic used during the Spanish flu epidemic of the early 20th century.
What's the Difference Between the Caipirinha and Mojito?
Though they're constructed in similar ways and are equally refreshing, the caipirinha and mojito are distinctly different. The common ingredients are sugar and fresh lime, and both cocktails employ a muddler, but that's where the similarities end. The Cuban mojito uses mint and club soda and features rum, which lacks the funky herbaceous taste of cachaça. While soda makes its way into some adaptations of the caipirinha, it is not a traditional ingredient.