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Fall has arrived, and as the cooler weather and earlier evenings drive us indoors, I’ve decided it’s time to change the lineup at the Entertaining Couple’s bar. Don’t you worry, this post isn’t about how to make some trendy, clichéd “fall cocktail” like a Cinnamon Apple Martini or a Pumpkin Pie Cosmo (come on…does anyone really drink these things?). Nope, the direction I’m heading is all about complementing the change of seasons with a classic cocktail, one that has some history to it. This is the time of year when people start looking forward to a mid-winter trip to the tropics, with visions of sunny beaches, to shake off the longing for the summer that’s now far behind us. So the time is right to add a tropical cocktail to the mix: The Caipirinha.
I’m actually a little surprised it’s taken me this long to write about the Caipirinha. It’s one of my favorite drinks — especially when I’m in the tropics (or when I’m creating a tropical atmosphere at home) — and it’s a super fun cocktail to make. Plus, it’s the national cocktail of Brazil, which (to me, at least) makes it seem exotic and sexy. A Caipirinha that’s faithful to the original recipe is made with cachaça, a Brazilian liquor distilled from sugar cane. Cachaça is similar to rum, but a bit less sweet, a bit more “raw,” and a bit more challenging to acquire a taste for. Here are some pronunciation tips. Say “kye – purr – reen - yuh” for Caipirinha, and “kuh - shah - suh” for cachaça. Easier than it looks, right?
I had my first Caipirinha many years ago in a Brazilian restaurant in Denver. I’d heard (and read) about the Caipirinha but had never seen one on a menu before, so I was excited to finally try one. And it was awful. The cachaça’s flavor reminded me of how paint thinner smells. Blehh. I wrote the Caipirinha off as something I didn’t like. But a couple years later, I spent a week on business in São Paolo and figured it was only fair to try a Caipirinha in its home country. What a difference! I’m not sure if the cachaça was better (probably) or if the Brazilian bartenders were more skilled at making Caipirinhas (again, probably), but whatever, I quickly became a fan. Now, instead of reminding me of paint thinner, cachaça makes me think of sun, beaches, and tropical good times. (It also helps that, in recent years, good-quality cachaça has become widely available here in the United States.)
We’ve also found Caipirinhas in parts of the Caribbean; those are almost always made with local rum and they tend to be a bit sweeter than the Brazilian version. (Purists will tell you that, if made with rum, it’s called a Caipirissima, while if you use vodka you’ve made a Caipiroska — which, incidentally, is Debbie’s favorite version. Whatever you call it, these variations taste great as well).
I think the Caipirinha is the perfect antidote for the wintertime blues that are just around the corner. Instead of dreading the change of seasons, throw a Tiki party: Crank up the heat, turn on your favorite tropical music, slip into your flip flops, splash on some coconut oil, and shake up some Caipirinhas!
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