Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Caipirinha Cocktail

Caipirinha Cocktail in rock glass with lime garnish

Fresh lime adds zing to Brazil’s national cocktail

The Caipirinha (pronounced kai-pee-REE-nyah) has been popular in Brazil for a century. But the rest of the world has only heard about it in the past decade or two.

Why the time lag? Mostly because the main ingredient in the drink — a rum-like spirit called cachaça (pronounced ka-SHAH-suh) — was only rarely sold outside Brazil. That’s changed now, so the Caipirinha (and cachaça) are becoming better known.

What does it taste like? Well, imagine a cross between a Mojito and a Classic Daiquiri, though with a bit more presence. If you like either of those drinks, you’ll probably like the Caipirinha.

In fact, you might like it even better.

Caipirinha Cocktail in rocks glass with lime garnish

Recipe:  The Caipirinha Cocktail

If you want to make a Caipirinha, you’ll need to buy some cachaça.  Every well-stocked liquor store carries at least one brand (and many offer several to choose from).  I suggest a couple of options below.  But if in doubt, discuss the pros and cons of the various brands with the store’s staff — most are knowledgeable, and you can learn at lot from talking to them. 

Cachaça is similar to rum, but it’s made from cane sugar.  By contrast, rum is made from molasses (a by-product from the making of crystallized sugar). 

Like rum, cachaça comes in light (white) and amber versions.  You want the light version for the Caipirinha.  It’s a bit rougher and less mellow than the amber — which makes it perfect for combining with lime.  It’s also less expensive (a bottle of light cachaça can be had for under $20; you could spend more, but there’s no need to).

Making this cocktail requires muddling sugar with lime wedges.  It’s the same process we used when making the Mojito and the Mint Julep. It’s important to use granulated sugar (not a dissolved-sugar sweetener, like Simple Syrup) when making this drink. The sugar granules help abrade the lime peel as you muddle, releasing some of its volatile oils.

You can use a “muddler” for this purpose (it looks sort of like a small baseball bat — every liquor store stocks them). If you don't have a muddler, a long-handled spoon will work. Just make sure your glass has a tempered (or at least thick) bottom, so you don’t risk cracking it when you muddle the lime and sugar.

This recipe serves one, and takes a few minutes to prepare.

Ingredients
  • ½ of a lime, cut into 4 or 6 wedges (see Notes)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar (this is very much to taste; some people prefer much more sugar than this, but I find that somewhere south of a teaspoon is appropriate; see Notes)
  • 2 ounces light (white) cachaça (I use the Ypióca brand; see Notes)
  • lime slice or wedge for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Cut the lime half into wedges.  Add the wedges to a rocks (old-fashioned) glass, along with the sugar (make sure the glass has a thick bottom so you don’t crack it when muddling the drink).  Muddle the lime and sugar together for a good half minute or so — you want to create a sweet juicy mess.
  2. Add ice cubes to fill the glass, and pour in the cachaça.  Stir with a spoon or drink stirrer to combine the lime juice and cachaça.
  3. Add a pair of short straws and the lime garnish (if using), and serve.

Caipirinha Cocktail in rocks glass with lime garnish
Notes
  • Limes come in various sizes, and their juiciness also varies.  So feel free to add more lime if you find that the amount specified in the recipe isn’t sufficient.
  • BTW, in Brazil this drink is made from a lime that closely resembles what we call “Key limes” in the US.  So you may want to try using those instead of regular (Persian) limes.
  • Some people say raw sugar is traditional in this drink, while others insist on white cane sugar.  I’m fresh out of raw sugar, so I just use white granulated sugar.  You could also try brown sugar, though that will give the drink a slightly different flavor (some mixologists swear that brown sugar is authentic, though that’s not actually the case, as far as I can tell).
  • Balancing the amount of sugar in this drink is tricky.  I like it slightly under-sweetened.  And I suggest you go light on the sugar at first, too.  It’s easy enough to add more if you want — just stir it in.
  • Cachaça has a sweetish (almost fruity) and herbal flavor with a slight aftertaste that reminds me a bit of tequila.  It’s a tad harsh, so I wouldn’t want to drink the white version neat or on the rocks.  But it mixes quite well.  I’ve never tasted the amber version of cachaça, but I understand it has a much smoother flavor.
  • Brazil is a huge country (fifth largest in the world by both population and land area), and Brazilians drink a lot of cachaça. As a result, according to Brazil-Help.com, cachaça is the third-largest spirit category in the world. 
  • The brand of cachaça I used (Ypióca) works well in this drink. But many others are now available in the US. For instance, I’ve heard that Pitú is good, but haven’t tried it yet. 
  • If you can’t find cachaça, you definitely need to find a better liquor store!  
  • That said, you could substitute vodka for cachaça.  In which case, the drink would be called a Caipirosca.  It wouldn’t be nearly as good as a Caipirinha, though.
  • I’d be more inclined to substitute white rum if I couldn‘t find cachaça.  The resulting drink would be called a Caipirissima.  But again, it’s not as good as using cachaça.
  • There are versions of the Caipirinha that add grapes or cherries (either sour or sweet).  I suppose I need to try these variations someday.  Thus far, however, it’s been quite easy to resist the temptation.
  • Bottom line:  The Caipirinha takes quite well to experimentation, so it’s a drink you can play with a bit.  Though the original is so good, I’m not sure I’d bother.
Caipirinha Cocktail in rock glass with lime garnish

Workers of the World, Drink Up!

“Wow,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs.  “Great drink.  Can’t believe I’d never heard of the Caipirinha until we decided to research it for the Summer Sippin’ Series.”

“Well, cachaça was hard to get in the US until relatively recently.” I said.  “Maybe they didn’t think it was worth exporting.”

“Why would they deprive us?” she asked.

“It had a down-market rep for a long time,” I said.  “And the Caipirinha was considered a farmer’s or worker’s drink in Brazil.  In fact, the name apparently comes from the Portuguese word caipira, which kinda sorta translates as ‘country bumpkin.’”

“The snobs strike again!” said Mrs K R.

“Yeah,” I said.  “It’s the same with the Mojito — which originally was a farmer’s drink in Cuba.”

“Well, I say we strike a blow for the common people,” said Mrs K R. “Let’s show some working class solidarity here!”

“What are you suggesting?” I asked.

“Mix us another round, of course!” exclaimed Mrs K R.

Works for me.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Cocktail Basics
Bermuda Rum Swizzle
Hurricane Cocktail
Mojito Cocktail
Gin and Tonic
Mai Tai
Classic Daiquiri
Pimm's Cup
Gimlet Cocktail
Piña Colada
Singapore Sling Cocktail
The Zombie
Planter's Punch
Margarita
Dark and Stormy Cocktail

92 comments:

  1. I need to create a board on Pinterest just for your drinks. It's 32*C in Berlin and I feed myself with ice. I need a drink after a day of work in a room without air con :) Hope you're having a great week so far.

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    1. Hi Marta, ;-) When it's hot, not having AC is no fun - been there. This drink will certainly refresh you! It has a lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Well, I love this drink and even have the stuff-well, I did until my son took the bottle to Vail with him. Seems I wasn't drinking it fast enough! And seeing how I'm cleaning house today-well, I guess this would be the perfect drink to cap off a work day. Maybe I better make it a nooner. Sounds better. Anyway, great choice!

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    1. Hi Abbe, looks like there's a purchase of cachaça in your future. ;-) And this is the perfect reward for cleaning house! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. ooooh - I just came in from the garden and this looks so refreshing right now. Thanks for sharing something I've never even heard of before - and the photos are stunning, John!

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    1. Hi Donalyn, this is perfect for after working in your garden! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  4. I love mojitos so just know these would hit the spot; this is new to me so thanks John, I'll be off to source cachaça asap!

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    1. Hi Barb, cachaça is truly good stuff! I really think you'll enjoy this drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. I've never heard of this before. It's sounds so simple to prepare and so easy to get drunk. One sip and I'd probably be acting silly.

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    1. Hi Vicki, well, maybe 2 sips. ;-) Great tasting drink, though. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I love both Mojito and Classic Daiquiri, so this is a must try for me. This Caipiriha sounds refreshing. Gotta track down a bottle of cachaça to make this! :)

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    1. Hi Amy, it's well worth your time to find cachaça so you can make this - I found it thoroughly tasty and refreshing. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I always know when you share a drink it's going to be out-of-this-world gorgeous. Yup, you did it again, looks amazing!

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    1. Hi Chris, shooting cocktails is so much fun! Hard, but fun. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  8. Again, thanks for the tutorial. Love me a mojito so I know I would love this little potable!!!!!

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    1. Hi Debra, this drink is pretty close in spirit to the Mojito - you could even add mint to it, if you wanted. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Such a tasty and refreshing drink but so strong!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, the ice does melt, eventually. This is one you'll want to sip on, not gulp. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. We drink caipis here (buenos aires) like it´s the end of the world. It might just be the most popular drink. And you´re right, cachaça can´t be substituted really. I made some cherry caipiroskas a few days ago, and I´m about to make passion fruit caipirinhas tomorrow! They are my two favorite drinks I think. Glad I found your blog!

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    1. Hi Paula, I love this drink too! It's one I'd heard of for a long time, and I'm only sorry to didn't try it before this year. Really good stuff! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I'm with Marta. I may just need to start a Kitchen Riffs board though. Not only are the dishes intoxicating, just look at that glorious drink!

    I came {this close} to posting about Brazil's National Drink on June 12th. Why? Becasue apparently, " The SBC (Sociedade Brasileira da Cachaça) wanted to declare June 12 the International Day of Cachaça because June 12, 1744, Portugal, then colonizer of Brazil, prohibited the production and distribution of cachaça in the country." That quote came from here John in case you want to check it out.

    I'm so glad you posted about this refreshing looking drink. Now, not only will I have a reference for next year (and a link of course) but, I get to taste and tell:)

    Thank you for sharing, and just in case I don't make it back in time, Happy Birthday! (in a few days:)


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    1. Hi Louise, thanks for the link - really informative. I didn't know abut the June 12th thing - you really should do something with that, being the absolute best with national food days, weeks, etc. ;-) Thanks for the BDay wishes, and for taking time to comment!

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  12. This does look like a very summery drink but it sure is difficult to pronounce and spell. I have not heard of this drink before - perhaps because we are so far from Brazil xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, it really is difficult to pronounce and spell! Worth learning, though, so you can order one. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Ahhhh, lovely photos of a delicious sounding drink. I would love one!

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    1. Hi Karen, it's a fun drink (and a pretty one). Thanks for the comment.

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  14. So, you know I won't know what this tastes like, but it sure is beautiful! I enjoy these posts John even though I don't drink. I love your photos and the history.

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, glad you find the posts entertaining even though you'll never follow the recipe! And it is a pretty drink, isn't it? Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  15. Sounds like a refreshing drink! I love cocktails with lime in it. Lovely post.

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    1. Hi Anne, it's extremely refreshing. And I'm with you on lime - the flavor works so well in cocktails! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I've never heard of this drink. I know I say this a lot but your pictures are truly awesome!! You should do a post on how you get your photos to come out so perfectly :)

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    1. Hi Ashley, it's a fun drink - worth trying. Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I may do a couple of tutorials on photos at some point (Nami suggested the same thing recently). Drink photos are particularly hard because there are all sorts of reflections you need to deal with - it's taken tons of practice to learn how to do it, and I still don't quite have what I want). It's all about learning how to control the light, and the best book I know for that is Light, Science, and Magic. Thanks for the comment!

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  17. I love mojitos, so I would probably really enjoy this drink! Lime is always yummy too :) Great photos!!

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    1. Hi Kristi, isn't lime great? IMO this drink is better than the mojito - and I love mojitos! Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Yumm- this looks as refreshing as a Gin and Tonic on a hot summer's day- but more exotic!

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    1. Hi Fran, this is definitely as refreshing as a G&T, although because the booze isn't diluted by mixer, it's not really a sipper. Great drink, though. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Love your cocktail posts! They are so informative, and your ability to capture a cocktail in a photo is truly amazing! And yes, to my taste I would add quite a bit of sugar to my version of this cocktail. :)

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    1. Hi Julia, this drink takes well to sugar, so you can make it as sweet as you like! And you can always add sugar to most drinks if they're too sour - they need to taste good to you, not to the person making them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I have memories popping up of drinking this on a holiday in Brazil some years ago, and I do remember it being quite addictive. I think I'll have to take out that cachaca bottle I still have somewhere to mix up a few drinks! Oh, and your photos are exquisite!

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    1. Hi Gourmantine, it is a rather addictive drink, isn't it? You definitely need to find that bottle! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  21. The cachaça is for sure not available here but they still make the caipirinha with white rum. Most probably I have never had a real caipirinha, maybe only in those star bars in kitzbühel. I d love to be able to get cachaca and then I d give it to my husband so he can make me a caipirinha every day. ^.^ Thanks for sharing John, again what mind blowing pictures!

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    1. Hi Helene, you'd definitely enjoy having your husband make your a caipirinha every day! It's a pretty good drink with white rum, but better (much better!) with cachaça. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  22. Perfect timing, John. I just bought a bottle of cachaca and planned to make these for our 4th of July gathering. We sampled these at one of my book club meetings (the book was set in S. America) and we all adored them. I've been scrolling through different recipes to figure out how to make the best version...so thanks for your detailed post!

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    1. Hi Liz, glad to be of help! If you're serving this to a crowd, you can probably make up a pitcher of them. I might have some simple syrup on hand so anyone who wants a sweeter drink can easily add a little bit of sugar to the drink. Sounds like you'll have a fun 4th! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Well, today you've taught me another cocktail, John, and this one sure does look refreshing. Your cocktail posts are always such a treat, from the description, to the history, and the photography. Thanks for another great one.
    "... the ice does melt, eventually". So true. :)

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    1. Hi John, yeah, ice has a bad habit of doing that! Glad to introduce you to a new drink - you really owe it to yourself to try one sometime. I think you'll like it. And cachaça has a really interesting flavor - worth trying. Thanks for your comment.

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  24. Caipirinha with lots and lots of crushed ice? My definition of a perfect summer drink. :)

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    1. Hi Alex, I usually use ice cubes, but crushed ice is great in this drink, too. And you're right that it's so wonderful for summer! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Wow, did you seriously take those photos, John? They are gorgeous!! Can't wait to try the cocktail, too.

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    1. Hi Kristy, yup, the photos are mine. I've learned a lot about how to shoot liquids in a glass, but I still have some ways to go. And the cocktail is great! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  26. This sounds like my kind of drink. Sweet and citrus... I'm thirsty! I love lime in this drink and I need to check out Cachaça!!! I'll remember this cocktail, Caipirinha!

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    1. Hi Nami, this is a terrific drink - definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. OMG! Yummy and the photos are impeccable :)

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    1. Hi Kiran, it's indeed yummy! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  28. I have always wanted to try a caipirinha, perhaps if only because I like saying caipirinha and cachaca :)

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    1. Hi Laura, I agree it's fun to say caipirinha and cachaça! ;-) More fun to drink - definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Your photos are truly a work of art! They leave me wishing I had some cachaca on hand to whip one of these up right now, can't wait to try it- thanks!

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    1. Hi Chris, it's a great drink - I was surprised at how much I like it. The flavor of cachaça is really interesting, and it works so well with lime. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  30. A lot of good things come from those lowly farmers. :) Now this would be the real test of my liquor store. It's suppose to the be the best in town, so let's see if they have cachaça. What a simple little drink and I love the touch of sweetness. Would love to be sipping on one right now. Thanks for introducing another drink I've never heard of!

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    1. Hi MJ, I hope your store carries cachaça! It's a fun drink, and I think you'll enjoy it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  31. This drink sounds like my kind of drink, it sounds great. I love your pictures, beautiful!

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    1. Hi Dawn, this is nice and simple, and really refreshing. Totally delish. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  32. This cocktail makes me want to visit Brazil! Delightfully refreshing and citrusy.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, I've never been to Brazil, but really want to go someday. And of course I'll have to same the caipirinha while I'm there! Thanks for the comment.

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  33. This looks like the perfect 4th of July cocktail if you ask me. I'm intrigued by the rum like reference. My adult kids are rum and Coke fans. I bet they'd love this!

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    1. Hi Kristi, this would be a fun July 4th cocktail. It'd be interesting to see how your kids like this - in a rum and coke the coke flavor dominates (although you certainly can taste the dark rum). In a way this has a lighter flavor - to me, a bit more refreshing. Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Absolutely the best looking cocktail I've seen lately, John! I love a simple vodka-club soda-lime cocktail but this is an interesting spin on that. Perfect for helping beat the Texas heat! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Georgia, it's a great cocktail - and perfect for Texas heat! It'd combine really well with Tex-Mex too, IMO. The cachaça has a definite flavor that you'll taste in the drink, so it's different from your usual vodka drink. But the flavor is wonderful, and I really enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

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  35. My sister had a Brazilian boyfriend a few years back and he introduced me to the Caipirinha. It blew my mind. He brought back the cachaça with him and boy does that stuff remind me of rocketfuel. Needless to say after a couple of these I was feeling pretty wild - who knows what happened. Thanks for the recipe if I ever need the urge to relive my night I now can. Thanks :-)

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    1. Hi Lizzie, most of the cachaça I see in the US is 40% alcohol (80-proof) so it isn't too feisty. But I've heard there are some wicked ones out there! Sounds like you were introduced to one. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Hi John ,
    What a refreshing drink ... I do so hope to see you at the Picnic Game .
    Louise told me about your blog and said the three of us has a lot in common . June 22 is our birthdays .
    Happy Birthday John the next drink is on me . :-)

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    1. Hi Nee, glad to make your acquaintance! Haven't you noticed that all the best people have their B-Day on June 22? ;-) Mrs K R and I refined the recipe for the next drink on the blog tonight, and it's a doozy! But thanks for buying! Happy Birthday, and thanks for commenting.

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  37. Ooooooooh ah! This sounds exquisite, John! And your photographs are jaw dropping! Great, thanks so much!

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    1. Hi Lizzy, glad you enjoy this! Truly a great drink. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  38. Thank I'll bring Mr. Nee with me tonight and buy him one . Thanks for visiting .
    May your birthday last til June 22,2014 and we can start over again .:-)
    Say hello to Mrs. K R .

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    1. Hi Nee, I think a year-long birthday celebration is a brilliant idea!

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  39. Since this spirit resembles rum, I just might have to seek it out. Thanks for introducing me to something new.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, it's really a swell drink! And it's close enough to rum that I think you'd like it. Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Raymund, it really is! Delish, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Hi John, I need one of this cocktail right now. Look so refreshing and inviting. The picture itself tell a thousand words.

    Thanks for sharing all your excellent drinks.

    Have a great weekend. Regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia, this one really is worth trying - terrific flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. I've been a huge fan of caipirinhas for years now, but that might be the most refreshing looking cap I've ever seen. Great job on the imagery...and thanks for the visit to my site. Cheers!

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    1. Hi Jed, it's a new drink to me, and I'm so glad I found it! Wonderful flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  43. After going to Brazil a few years ago, this became my favourite cocktail (I love limes!)...although I mainly order it back home as the Caprioska - vodka version - and that is just as good, if not better! It's such a refreshing and summery drink!

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    1. Hi Ali, isn't this a great drink? The Caprioska is good, but I prefer the traditional better. But then, I'm a real rum fan! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Oh John...I love caipirinha, although I did not acquire the taste for alcohol when living in Brazil, only after I moved to US...now, every time when I see it in restaurants/bars, I always order it...I still have a couple of bottles of cachaca that I brought back from Brazil from our last trip, will make caipirinha...cheers :D
    Have a great week ahead!

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    1. Hi Juliana, I was actually thinking about you as I wrote this post, wondering whether you ever drank this cocktail. Now I know! It's so great, isn't it? I'd love to visit Brazil someday - such an interesting place. Thanks for the comment.

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  45. You know I love cocktails! I also love learning about new booze....new to me of course! I plan to locate Cachaca now, I must try it:-) Thank you for all your great cocktail posts! Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, this is a really good drink! Lovely flavor - I think you'll like it. Perfect to accompany BBQ! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I am so glad you did the Caipirinha! It is without a doubt my favourite cocktail. I'm actually about to head out for drinks and I know what I'll be ordering now!

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    1. Hi Amanda, happy I inspired you! It really is a terrific cocktail. Thanks for the comment.

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