This Friday in Rio de Janeiro, the Olympic torch will be lit, signifying the beginning of the thirty-first Summer Olympics. Watching the opening ceremony at home has always been something of a tradition for me, particularly during the summer games. It’s always been a time to get together with friends, eat some grilled food, and sip on some drinks in the early evening.
I like to try to enjoy the national beverages of the host country when I can, though China and Greece did make that a little difficult for us. But we drank Cava during the opening ceremony in Barcelona in 1992, American and Australian beers in 1996 and 2000, and Pimm’s Cups in 2012 when the games were hosted in London.
This Friday we will be toasting with the national drink of Brazil, the Caipirinha. Roughly translated to “little peasant girl” it is a rustic drink enjoyed by everyone from the most rural to the most urban, and made with Brazil’s national spirit, cachaça. Cachaça is at once a rustic yet industrial product, made in a similar fashion to rum, but distilled from fresh-pressed sugar cane juice in place of molasses.
It’s all about technique with the Caipirinha. There is a sort of ceremony in itself when preparing the drink; the limes are halved and quartered, then muddled carefully with sugar. The cachaça is added, the drink is tasted, adjusted, and then crushed ice is slowly added. I liken it to the preparation of a Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned.
I like to have a small bottle of 2:1 simple syrup standing by at the ready when I’m making Caipirinhas. It makes for easy adjustments once the cachaça has been added, since granulated sugar doesn’t dissolve easily in alcohol. And according to a quote attributed to the late, great Sasha Petraske, “If you don’t straw taste your Caipirinha, you’re an asshole. No bartender is that good.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
1 large lime, halved and quartered
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 oz cachaça
In an old fashioned glass, muddle sugar with half the lime (quartered) until sugar is dissolved. Add cachaça and stir, tasting for balance and adding simple syrup or additional lime juice as needed. Top with crushed ice, stir, and serve.