Grilled caipirinhas are a flavorful take on Brazil's national cocktail
Jessica Webster | AnnArbor.com
I’ve been in love with Brazil for as long as I can remember. It’s possible that it all started when I heard the first strains of Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s lush “Getz/Gilberto” record. Those 34 minutes of aural perfection are a launching point for many — the first step toward an obsession with all things Brazilian: the music, the gorgeous language, the culture and the food.
We will all get more familiar with Brazil in the next few years. Rio will be hosting the World Cup soccer tournament in 2014, then the Olympics just two years later. Ann Arborites can experience some of the best of Brazilian music when former Brazilian Minister of Culture and singer-songwriting legend Gilberto Gil plays Hill Auditorium in November.
With the weather here in Michigan especially hot and sticky recently, Brazil has been on my mind more than ever. I hosted a small backyard gathering last weekend, and instead of our default mojitos or daiquiris, I decided to mix up a pitcher of Brazil’s national cocktail: the caipirinha.
A caipirinha isn’t all that different from a daiquiri, when it comes down to it .The only real difference is that where a daiquiri is built on rum (derived from molasses), the caipirinha contains the Brazilian spirit cachaca (derived from pure cane sugar).
Cachaca is the most popular distilled spirit in Brazil, with over a billion liters produced annually. It was originally considered a poor man’s spirit; in fact, the most famous cachaca-based drink, the caipirinha, translates to something along the lines of “little hillbilly.” That hasn't stopped the runaway popularity of this cocktail, though.
A classic caipirinha is made from lime wedges muddled with sugar (preferably raw or turbinado sugar), then mixed with cachaca and ice. This recipe, borrowed from Chow.com, takes the flavor profile a step further, coating the limes in sugar and then throwing them on the grill. The resulting “grilled” caipirinhas have a deep golden color and a nice toasty flavor.
In addition to caramelizing the sugar, grilling the limes helps soften the citrus fruit, making it easier to muddle.
To muddle the quarters, use a muddler, a pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to crush all of the juice out of the lime. Grind and twist the lime into the sugar, letting the lime juice absorb the sugar until you’ve got something resembling a golden lime syrup.
Grilled Caipirinha (from Chow.com)
- 4 medium limes
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 8 ounces cachaca
Wash the limes, roll them on a cutting board to loosen the juices, and quarter them.
Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high (about 375 to 425 degrees).
Place the quartered limes and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium bowl and toss to evenly coat. Place the limes on the grill, reserving the bowl (no need to wash it). Grill the fruit uncovered, turning it occasionally, until it’s slightly charred and softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Return the limes to the reserved bowl and let them cool for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place 4 cocktail glasses in the freezer to chill.
Divide the grilled lime pieces among the chilled glasses, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the remaining sugar to each glass, and muddle gently. Add 2 ounces of the cachaca to each glass and stir to combine. Top each glass with ice and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 drinks.
While you're enjoying your grilled caipirinhas, give a listen to Brazilian music legend Gilberto Gil. He's performing at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on November 16:
Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for AnnArbor.com. You can reach her at JessicaWebster@AnnArbor.com.