The History of the Caipirinha

Made with cachaça, the sweeter, more refined cousin of dark rum, the Caipirinha (Kai-Pur-reen-Ya) has earned its place as the national cocktail of Brazil. Light, cold and incredibly refreshing, it is no wonder it is so popular in the sweltering hot country, but where did the surprisingly simple, yet effective, cocktail come from?

The Medicinal Caipirinha?

It is possible that the drink was created as a way to relieve the symptoms of Spanish flu, which was rife in Brazil at the end of World War I. The recipe then would have included garlic and honey, as well as the native green lemons used in today’s cocktail and the famous Brazilian cachaça. At some point, someone thought to substitute the garlic and lemon for sugar and ice, and the classic cocktail was born.

The Caipirinha is still used as a way to fight the symptoms of the common cold today, although we cannot vouch for its effectiveness!

The Party Caipirinha?

Other sources believe that the cocktail was created as a showpiece at parties in the 19th century. Rich farmers in Sao Paolo would throw soirees and create the drinks as a way to present the local goods on their land. Cachaça is made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane juice, which was one of the biggest crops in the region at the time.

The Working Man’s Caipirinha?

Other versions of the story point towards the slave traders from Europe, who would drink the Caipirinha on the boats back to Portugal in order to prevent scurvy. Limes are well known for their vitamin C boost, while the sugar would have made the mix more palatable.

It is also possible that the drink was actually created by the farm hands on the sugarcane fields, who were looking for ways to use the cachaça they were harvesting. Despite the abundance of stories, there is not one name that has been able to lay claim to this drink, making it all the more difficult to pinpoint the truth.

Variations of the Caipirinha

There is an actual law in Brazil that states the ingredients of a Caipirinha. If it does not include lime or cachaça, it cannot be affiliated with the classic cocktail name. While some home bartenders may substitute rum or other fruits, the finished drink cannot be called a Caipirinha.

Many bartenders have gotten around this ruling by giving their drinks names like Strawberry Caipirinha or Passionfruit Caipirinha. In fact, cachaça tastes great with a wide variety of tropical fruits – we highly recommend you get creative with your cocktail!

If you do choose to use rum instead of cachaça, be aware that it will have a huge affect on the flavour. Rum is not as strong and has a different aroma – something to note if you are a fan of the original recipe.

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Bartender's top tip

Keep your cocktail costs down. If you have favourite spirits or ingredients to make your cocktails, buy bigger bottles to keep your costs lower.

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