Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, is simple but incredibly delicious and refreshing! Made with only 4 ingredients and no special equipment or bartending skills necessary. Follow my recipe for the best, foolproof caipirinha you will ever make!
Caipirinha: a tropical cocktail!
If you’re lucky to have been invited to a Brazilian gathering – parties or BBQs – or have travelled to Brazil, chances are you’ve encountered a caipirinha!
If you loved it or not, depends on how it was prepared. Hopefully, you loved it and are looking to replicate it at home. In that case, I’ve got you covered with a traditional caipirinha recipe that would please even the snobbiest caipirinha purist!
However, if your experience was not the best, please don’t run for the hills! Give my recipe a try. I would love the chance to change your mind! 😉
What is Caipirinha?
Caipirinha (pronounced kai-pee-ree-nyah) is Brazil’s national cocktail! It is traditionally made with cachaça (ka-shah-suh) – a sugarcane distilled spirit -, lime and sugar.
The right way to prepare a caipirinha is by layering the ingredients. Lime and sugar go in first, and get muddled to release the lime juices. Then, you add the ice and finally the liquor.
Technically, the bartender shouldn’t even stir the drink, as caipirinhas are served with wooden stirrers so people can stir as they drink!
The origins of this cocktail
Although the origin of the caipirinha is officially unknown, there are several unproven stories on how this drink came to be!
The most popular one, says that the caipirinha was originally invented as medicine, in 1918, by a farmer from Piracicaba (São Paulo), called Paulo Vieira.
Legend has it that when his workers fell sick with the Spanish flu, he concocted a mixture of lime, garlic, honey and cachaça.
Eventually, the garlic and honey were left out, and the sugar and ice came in to make this mixture a refreshing cocktail!
Another version, popular among some academics and historians, claims that the caipirinha was – yes – created by farmers in Piracicaba, but not as medicine, as a celebratory cocktail that honored and strengthened the sugar cane plantations in the region.
Whichever version you choose to believe, the only claim we can make is that caipirinha is nowadays an internationally renowned cocktail, strongly connected to Brazilian culture!
Caipirinhas are made all over Brazil, with several different fruits. Among some of the most popular ones are pineapple, cashew fruit, watermelon, passion fruit and clementine.
This cocktail can also be made with different spirits, but then – technically – it gets another name!
- Caipiroska – a caipirinha made with vodka.
- Sakerinha or Caipisakê – a caipirinha made with sake.
- Caipiríssima – a caipirinha made with rum.
- Caipirita – a caipirinha made with tequila.
- Caipirão – a caipirinha made with beirão liqueur, popular in Portugal.
- Caipivinho – made with wine.
- Caipicerveja – made with beer.
You’ll only need 4 ingredients to make a lime caipirinha.
LIMES – Choose Persian limes over Key limes. They are larger and juicier, and therefore will yield more juice per fruit. Calculate 1 1/2 to 2 limes per drink.
SUGAR – Use granulated sugar. You can also substitute for sweetener, if you want to cut calories!
ICE – I like to use crushed ice for caipirinha. They add the right amount of dilution to an otherwise strong cocktail, while keeping your caipirinha consistently chilled.
CACHAÇA – You can make caipirinha with white or aged cachaça, depending on your preference! White cachaça are smoother and more neutral, so it won’t overpower the drink as much. Aged cachaça packs more of a punch, have lower acidity, and will add a distinctive cachaça taste to your caipirinha.
How to pick limes for caipirinhas
Since caipirinhas are made with such few ingredients, it is important that you choose the best ones available.
That goes for your limes! They have to be very juicy, or they won’t produce much liquid when muddled and your caipirinha will be just a sweet shot of cachaça!
When buying limes, here are a few things to look for:
- Aroma – Smell the limes. A ripe lime will smell, well, lime-y! The ones that are not ripe will not have a strong smell.
- Color – The greener, the better. Skip the yellowish looking ones.
- Touch – Give them a little squeeze. They should be firm but feel plump when gently squeezed. If they don’t give in to your touch, they are under-ripe. If they are too soft, they are too ripe.
How to make Caipirinha
A good caipirinha is one of the most refreshing cocktails you will ever drink!
However, even though it is made with only 4 ingredients and without any fancy equipment, they can be quite unpleasant if not prepared the right way.
Here are my tips so that doesn’t happen:
- Buy fresh limes!
- Don’t skip removing the white pith.
- Muddle just enough to release the lime juices. Don’t worry if the limes are not completely macerated! You don’t want to risk ending up with a bitter caipirinha!
- Be generous with the ice. Caipirinhas have to be ice cold!
- Buy good quality cachaça!
- Make the caipirinhas when you plan on serving them. They are at their best when freshly made!
Here’s how I make caipirinha. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!
Step 1: Prepare the limes
- Slice off the end (about 1/4-inch) of each lime. (Photo 1)
- Cut the limes in half, lengthwise. (Photo 2) Stand the halved limes up and slice lengthwise in quarters. (Photo 3)
- Take each quarter, one at a time, and hold it upright by the skin side. Then, slice down through the pith (that white, spongy section at the center), removing and discarding it. (Photo 4)
- Lay each pith-less quarter skin side down and cut the lime in half, crosswise. (Photo 5)
- You should have 8 wedges per lime! (Photo 6)
Step 2: Muddle
- If you don’t have an ice machine that produces crushed ice, place your ice cubes in a resealable bag, and smash with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin until the ice is crushed. (Photo 7) You could also crush the ice using a blender or food processor.
- In a rocks glass, combine the lime wedges (try to place them flesh side up) and 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar. Muddle just until the limes release their juices. Muddling too much will cause the caipirinha to be bitter! (Photo 8)
Step 3: Mix!
- Add the ice, then pour 6 to 8 ounces of cachaça. (Photo 9) Serve with stirrers and let your guests stir their own drinks
- The white pith of a lime is bitter and unpleasant, and can compromise the flavor of your caipirinha. Don’t skip slicing them off!
Serving a Caipirinha
Caipirinhas are traditionally assembled and served in individual Old Fashioned glasses.
However, if serving a crowd, you can prepare it in a pitcher. Just calculate 1 1/2 to 2 limes + 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar + 6 to 8 ounces of cachaça per person!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can shake it. Some bartenders prefer shaking over the traditional layering, saying that it chills the drink quicker.
But don’t overdo it, as you don’t want the lime peel to rub against each other too much, releasing bitterness into your cocktail!
Either your limes weren’t fresh, you muddled too much or you forgot to remove the white pith! 😊
- 2 limes
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar, or sweetener
- 6 to 8 ounces cachaça
- Crushed ice
Prepare the limes:
- Start by slicing off the end (about 1/4-inch) of each fruit. Then, cut each lime in half, lengthwise, and then in half again, producing 4 quarters per lime.
- Hold each quarter upright by the skin side, and slice down through the white pith, removing and discarding it.
- Lay each pith-less lime quarter, skin side down, and cut crosswise in half. You should end up with 8 wedges per lime.
Make the caipirinha:
- Place the lime wedges, flesh side up, and the sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Using a muddler, muddle just until the lime release their juices.
- Add enough crushed ice to fill the glass, then pour the cachaça.
- Serve with stirrers, so your guests can stir their own caipirinhas!