The caipirinha is a favorite cocktail both in and outside of Brazil. The traditional drink calls for sugar, lime juice, and cachaca, a strong liquor distilled from fermented sugarcane. Cachaca is central to the food and drink scene of Brazil, where it has been produced for hundreds of years.
How Much Do Brazilians Love Cachaca?
Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil and is heavily regulated. Brazil is the only country permitted to make the drink, which is usually 38-48 percent alcohol by volume. It is estimated that Brazilians drink about 360,000,000 gallons of cachaca every year. Of the more than 1.3 billion litres produced annually, only about 1% is exported. Germany has the highest consumption rate of cachaca outside of brazil.
By these numbers, I think we can safely say that Brazilians really love their cachaca.
Where Does Cachaca Come From?
Cachaca production dates back to the early 16th century when Portuguese colonists began to transfer sugar production from the Madeira Islands to Brazil.
Up to this point, a drink called aguardente de cana (“cane alcohol”) had been produced in Madeira using specialized stills. These stills were brought to Brazil, along with the first cuttings of sugar cane, in around 1532. The drink was renamed “cachaca.”
What Does Cachaca Taste Like?
The flavors of cachaca depend largely on how it was produced and if/how long it was aged. Cheaper versions can have a stronger, almost chemical-like taste. Young, small-batch cachaca is usually described as “earthy” or “grassy.” Aged versions will take on the flavors of their barrels and have more complicated notes, like spices, fruits, and grass.
How is Cachaca Different from Rum?
Like rum, cachaca has an aged and unaged version. The branca or “white” cachaca is bottled immediately after distillation, although it can be aged according to the preference of the distiller. Cachaca branca is usually cheaper and not as smooth, which makes it the preferred choice for mixed drinks.
Aged cachaca is known as amarala, or “yellow,”to reflect its golden color. For this reason it is also sometimes called ouro, meaning “gold.” Cachaca amarala is aged for at least three years and up to fifteen years. It has a smooth taste and is typically sipped neat.
Unlike rum, which is produced traditionally using the byproducts of sugar production (especially molasses), cachaca is produced from fresh, fermented sugar cane juice. However, there are certain rums that are produced using this technique as well. Rhum agricole, for example, is produced using fresh cane.
The distinction between rum and cachaca seems to be largely a cultural one. Until 2013, cachaca was referred to as “Brazilian Rum” in the United States because of its similarities in production, aging, and taste. In 2013, an agreement was signed to refer to the drink by its proper name and to describe cachaca as “a type of rum and a distinctly Brazilian product.”
How to Make Passion Fruit Juice Caipirinha
Like most cocktails, the caipirinha has many variations. The traditional lime juice and sugar can be substituted with nearly any fruit juice, but tropical juices like passionfruit are particularly good.
Since passion fruit is native to Brazil and widely available at markets, it is the mixer of choice for caipirinha (after the standard lime juice). Mixed with sugar and strong cachaca, it makes for a beautiful and refreshing summer drink.
Luckily, it is not as difficult as it once was to find cachaca at your local liquor store. There are several great entry-level brands of cachaca to choose from, each with its own distinct flavor and price point. Most large liquor stores now carry at least one version of cachaca. It is also available online, where you can even purchase a handy caipirinha kit.
In a pinch, you can use white rum. But it will not, technically, be a caipirinha anymore. It will be a caipirissima.
Passion Fruit Caipirinha Recipe
Yield: about five 4-oz drinks
8 fl oz white or silver cachaca
2 oz white sugar*
8 oz passion fruit juice (fresh or shelved)
- Roll 3 of your limes back and forth a few times before cutting them into wedges. This helps the juice concentrate in the center.
- Place the lime wedges and all of the sugar in a pitcher and muddle until the juice is released and the sugar is dissolved. Remove juiced limes.
- Pour the passion fruit juice and cachaca into the pitcher and stir to combine.
- Cut the last lime into slices and garnish 4-5 glasses filled with ice. Pour the caipirinha mixture over the ice and serve. If you are using fresh passion fruit, you can add the fruit itself as a garnish as well.
*You can adjust the amount of sugar depending on how sweet you like your drink. Also keep in mind that if you are using boxed passion fruit juice, it may already contain some amounts of sugar.
Caipirinhas at Texas de Brazil
A chilled, refreshing caipirinha is the perfect complement to a delicious meal at Texas de Brazil. Visit one of our 50+ locations to try our signature cocktails and incomparable churrasco-style meats.