Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.
The folks who come in to the bar lately have been all abuzz over the warm weather. Everyone is clamoring for lighter, brighter cocktails. I know I have been in that mood, too. This week, the cocktail trail takes us to tropical Brazil.
The caipirinha is a bit like another popular Brazilian tradition, soccer: It's wildly popular around the world, but only barely gaining traction in the United States. I'm glad to see it getting more popular here, because it's a really swell drink. Even better, it's easy to make, with just three ingredients.
First up: Get yourself a lime. Slice it in half, then cut that half into quarters. Plunk those into your glass. Next comes sugar. If you have Demerara or turbinado sugar (e.g. Sugar in the Raw) around, use that. At the bar, I just grab a couple of sugar cubes. Now, muddle together the lime and sugar; the sugar abrades the lime zest, introducing essential oils to the drink. For this reason, don't think of using simple syrup in place of the sugar.
The last part of the drink is the booze, cachaça. I've heard it pronounced many different ways, so let me help: The "ch" is soft, and the cedilla (ç) is pronounced as a soft C, so say "kah-SHAW-suh". Cachaça is still a little unknown in the US. It's a cousin of rum. While most rum is made with molasses (the byproduct of sugar production), cachaça is made directly from sugarcane juice. It's also usually not refined as much as rum. This gives cachaça a green note reminiscent of a good blanco tequila. If you don't have room for an extra bottle on your shelf, you can change up the drink by changing the base spirit. I've listed a couple of the better-known ones for you.
You thought I forgot about the pronunciation lesson, didn't you? If you've learned even a lick of Spanish, you're a leg up on everyone else. Just treat the "nh" as the Spanish "ñ" and you're good to go. If you're still in the dark, just say "kai-pa-REEN-ya" and enjoy.
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Caipirinha ½ lime, quartered 2 teaspoons sugar (preferably Demerara) 1 ½ ounces cachaça
Muddle lime and sugar in a double Old-Fashioned glass until sugar dissolves. Add cachaça, fill with crushed ice, and stir to combine.
Variations: Fruit Caipirinha: Muddle a small piece of fruit or two with the lime and sugar. Strawberries are popular. Caipiroska: Substitute vodka for the cachaça. Caiprissima: Substitute rum for the cachaça.