Caipirinha – Classic Recipe & History

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Caipirinha
Caipirinha

History Of The Caipirinha

The earliest Caipirinha recipe I can find comes from the 1963 book “The Brazilian Cookbook” by Irene Moliterno. I have a hard time finding anything on this cocktail before the 1960s. It doesn’t help that the word caipirinha is a common term in Portuguese, meaning “little country folk.” For that reason, this was a very difficult cocktail to research, and it was easier to search for occurrences of cachaça and açúcar together. This was also an issue because cachaça is made from sugar. Trust me; I searched not only English but primarily Portuguese language works. Today the word Caipirinha is wholly associated with the drink.

Although first mentioned in the 1960s the Caipirinha wasn’t written about much in the 1990s. By the 1990s, many cocktail books included a caipirinha recipe, and the cocktails exploded in popularity in the 2000s. No one knows the origins of the Caipirinha, but it most likely originated out of the southern end of Brazil in Sao Paulo. Some theorize it was invented during WWI but who knows? I have my idea below that it is somehow related to an older Brazilian drink called the “Kaingang de Palmas,” but I have no evidence to say they are related; it’s just that they are very similar.

Is Rum A Substitute For Cachaça?

The national cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha, is a fantastic drink with a sweet citrus and vegetal flavor. I don’t usually get particular about stuff like this, but If you are not using cachaça, you are not making a Caipirinha. Even though it is classified the same as rum, rum is not a substitute for cachaça. While rum has a sweet toasted dark caramel taste, cachaça tastes more like a grassy and lightly sweet vodka. Cachaça is what makes the drink, and using rum would turn it into a daiquiri.

The Caipirinha’s Potential Indigenous Roots.

Not to say there is a direct line to draw between these two drinks, but I found the Caipirinha is very similar to an older traditional Brazilian drink called the Kaingang de Palmas. In the 1937 Book “Ensaios de Ethologia Brasileira” Brazilian ethnologist, Herbert Baldus, mentions how the indigenous Kaingang villages in southern Brazil celebrate June festivities “Festa Junina” by making a drink of cachaça, sugar, young unripe corn (milho verde), and water. The drink is called Kaingang de Palmas, meaning Kaingang applause or Kaingang clap/cheer. The Kaingang were an indigenous people whose area included Sao Paulo, the believed origin of the Caipirinha. Like the Kaingang de Palmas using unripe corn, a traditional Brazilian Caipirinha is made with unripe green lemons. Not limes. Caipirinha loosely translates to “little country person,” which is what the indigenous peoples were seen as by city dwellers.

I understand this is a stretch, and there is no evidence I can find saying that they are related, but there are many similarities between the Caipirinha and the Kaingang de Palmas.

Recipe Resources

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Caipirinha

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Course: DrinksCuisine: Brazilian
Servings

1

servings
Calories

231

kcal
ABV

31%

Total time

3

minutes

Learn how to make the a classic Caipirinha.

Ingredients

  • 1 Half of a Lime or Green Unripe Lemon

  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup

  • 2 oz Cachaça

Directions

  • Muddle 3 lime wedges in the serving glass to get the juice and oils out of lime. Add ice to crushed ice to the glass.
  • Add the other ingredients into the glass with the limes.
  • Give the drink a couple turns and serve.

Notes

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