The first time I tasted cachaça, Brazil's most popular spirit, I wasn't in Rio, or anywhere that warranted a passport. In fact, I wasn't even 15. Don't worry: I was under the supervision of my parents, whose Brazilian friends had come to visit. It was Christmas, at our family home in Vermont (far from warm Ipanema Beach), and our pals had smuggled the stuff in as a hostess gift. With a tall wooden muddler, our family friend muddled lime with sugar, and then filled a rocks glass with ice, topped it with a heavy pour of cachaça, and swirled the glass with his hand, like he'd done it a thousand times before.
He called the cocktail a Caipirinha, a word he said roughly translated to "redneck" (the verdict is still out about that). Kye-pee-reen-ya. The word had a nice ring to it, like boa noite and Brasileira, other Portuguese terms I'd learned to recite. It also had a nice taste to it: a little bit sweet and a little tart -- too refreshing for December, but hey, it was summer in Brazil.
It wasn't until at least six or seven years later, when importing cachaça began to take speed in the U.S. (and when I was legal), that I tasted the drink again. This time, the Caipirinha wasn't a nostalgic relic but a buzz-worthy order, listed on the menu of a trendy cocktail bar. The national drink of Brazil, a strong one, had since firmly established itself as a must-know libation, favored not only by Brasileiras, but by American bon vivants, too.
So in the spirit of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, why not raise a glass? Follow the instructions below -- if you're of age, of course.
|Hand-turned on a lathe by a New York craftsman, these one-of-a-kind wooden muddlers are totally bad-ass and favored by some of the most respected mixologists. Pug! Handmade Cherry Muddler, $40, Boston Shaker|
1 tablespoon fine white sugar
2 ounces cachaça
Cut lime into eighths.
Add lime and sugar to a rocks glass and muddle.
Top with ice.
Swirl like a pro, and serve.
Photograph: Food Network