The Caipirinha: spirit of Olympia

Posted · Add Comment

To enhance the pleasure – or, possibly, mitigate the boredom – of the 2016 Olympics, there is no more appropriate accompaniment than the Caipirinha. You can rest assured that many in the host nation will be raising a glass of the same stimulant. The active ingredient in the caipirinha is cachaça, a sugar cane spirit for which the Brazilians have developed an impressive thirst (2 billion litres per year). Considering its popularity in London cocktail bars, you might expect the Caipirinha to be an urbane, sophisticated drink. But it has an assertive undertaste that my tasting panel (Mrs Hirst) described as ‘slightly straw-like’. This is only appropriate since, contrary to its hip image, the Caipirinha was originally a rural refreshment (the term is a diminutive of caipira meaning ‘countryman’). These Brazilian country folk certainly knew how to kill a thirst stone-dead. With wedges of lime floating in crushed ice, the ‘little countryman’ looks pretty and tastes wonderfully refreshing. The only slight drawback is that it is fearsomely moreish. In the test-run for this drink, the two of us demolished half a bottle of cachaça in 30 minutes flat. By Christopher Hirst

For one cocktail

Half a lime cut into quarters
One teaspoon brown sugar powdered in a mortar
50ml cachaça

Put lime quarters in highball glass (medium beaker) with powdered brown sugar. Muddle fruit (lightly crush) with muddler or handle of wooden spoon to release oils from skin and juice from segments. Add cachaça and fill glass with crushed ice. Stir thoroughly and serve with straws.