Monday, June 06, 2005

In honor of the absentee Tigerhawk 

In addition to their rich musical legacy, which will be explored in a future post, Brazilians have the food and drink thing down cold. I remember a trip to Sao Paulo where in a restaurant I ordered Jack Daniels on the rocks. I was brought a glass, a bucket of ice, and a bottle of Old No. 7 with graduations on the side to measure my consumption. How civilized!

I'm generally a whisky drinker no matter my destination, but if you'd prefer to drink the local concoctions when in Brazil, you could do a lot worse than ordering a caipirinha.

1 lime
2 ounces of cachaça
Sugar to taste
Ice cubes

Wash the lime and roll it on the board to loosen the juices. Cut the lime into pieces and place them in a glass. Sprinkle with the sugar and crush the pieces (pulp side up) with a pestle. (We have a long, wooden one from Brazil, made specifically for this purpose.) Just enough to release the juice, otherwise it'll get bitter. Add the cachaça and stir to mix. Add the ice and stir again. It is delicious and potent!

If you can't find cachaça where you live, use a good vodka. The drink will then be called caipiroshka. No vodka? Use white rum and you will have a caipiríssima. Caipirinhas made with sake are all the rage in Rio now! Try one...

What is cachaça you ask? Cachaca, also known as Aguardente, is a "spirit distilled from sugarcane," according to cookbrazil. And if you can't find it, don't worry. I can personally vouch for the caipiroshka as well.

I'll try to post a drink recipe from each of Tigerhawk's destinations, and see if we can get any first hand reviews.

UPDATE (from TigerHawk, 9:30 pm Sao Paolo time): Done! The caipirinha was excellent.


By Blogger viking kaj, at Tue Jun 07, 12:15:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Tue Jun 07, 12:42:00 PM:

My brother-in-law is from Porto Allegre del Sul in southern Brazil, and has informed as TH notes that either cheap vodka or cheap white rum can be substituted for the cachaca in the Caipirinha without comprimising the integrity of the drink. In many Brazilian restaraunts in the US they will actually ask if you prefer vodka. The spirit used must be light (no dark rums) and the fresh lime and the sugar are essential.

Cachaca is simply the raw distillate of sugar cane juice. Unlike most rums which are also distilled products from sugar cane (molasses), Cachaca was typically neither aged nor blended. My other relatives from southern Indiana would call this raw distillate "screech", albeit for spirits produced from corn. Others from the period of the Volsted act (aka the infamous 18th amendment previously lambasted in a few of my other posts on this blog) and earlier have variously called similar spirits white lightning or 'shine. While, as with any spirit, snooty versions such as aged cachacas are out there (like premium tequilas) an aged cachaca is typically not mixed in a drink. Traditionally the quality of the spirit used to make the Caipirinha was not considered hugely important since most cachaca, not unlike most tequilas, was pretty cheap stuff to begin with. If you want the authentic hangover (recall this is due to incomplete fermenation products not removed in the distillation process) from hell which is an extremely important part of the true Caipirinha experience then don't waste your money on making your drink with Belvedere or Grey Goose. (BTW, I personally believe Grey Goose is an intentional tongue-in-cheek reference to the pinch they put on your wallet for what is essentially grain neutral spirits back filled with spring water.) Depending on your body weight five or six Caipirinhas should be sufficient to produce the Krakatoa of all hangovers, and these babys slide down easily.

If you are looking for a Caipirinha in your neighborhood and want the full cachaca experience I can highly recommend Fogo de Chao (www.fogocechao.com). This is an authentic Southern Brazilian (owner is from Porto Allegre) churascuria or steak house with numerous locations around the country. It's spendy but worth it. Guys wearing gaucho outfits (those funky baggy pants) come wandering aroud to your table with immense skewers of sizzling meat, this is truly carnivore heaven. (TH due to his family history may prefer the black beans or feijoadas, instead, which are also quite tasty). In NYC Cabana Carioca at 123 W 45th is also a reliable, if somwhat less glamourous, venue for an authentic cachaca Caipirinha.

Everyone will have to supply their own girl from Ipanema, however. (If you drink enough of these and squint I'm pretty sure you can find a reasonable facsimile even if you having your Caipirinha in Prince Rupert).  

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