The Short Buzz: The Spirit of Ipanema

As the warming season brings cravings for margaritas, sangrias and mojitos, there is one cocktail that is finding greater appreciation with American imbibers—the caipirinhia.

Often misunderstood, this Brazilian concoction tends to be grouped with and outplayed by the heavily promoted mojito.  Yet the comparison is misguided, considering the most similar items between the drinks are the muddle of lime and sugar, the caipirinhia offers quite a different scale of flavors, predominantly identified by the use of cachaca.  

Cachaca (ka-SHA-sa), produced in Brazil since about 1530, is distilled from sugarcane juice and has only begun to experience a rise in its export potential.  Last year 647,000 liters were imported into the United States compared to the fewer than 100,000 shipped in 1998. 

Earlier this month the New York Times shed some light onto the growing Brazilian industry that has confidently pressed across its borders.  Antonio Rocha, owner of Rochinha brand cachaca, produces aged cachaca that is a “smoother, sippable version” lending itself to American tastes.

“Until 1990, cachaca didn’t have any value,” Mr. Rocha told the Times, “The ones that sold were the ones that advertised; the quality ones didn’t advertise.  It was only by word of mouth.”

Brazil produces 1.3 billion liters of its national “aguardente” (fire water) annually and ships about 1 percent.  The unique and often acquired flavors of mass produced cachaca (earthy and musky, with adherent sugar cane qualities) has slowly become a trend outside of Latin America, notably in Germany and the U.S., and has given way to the higher end productions of cachaca with nuanced qualities contributed to aging.


Popular mass-produced brands:

Pitu, from Pernambuco, is the most recognized brand of cachaca.

Cachaca 51, boasts itself as the bestselling brand in Brazil, has been around since 1951.

Leblon, perhaps the best-marketed brand, was conceived in 2005.

Important: These brands of cachacas are noted for the mixing qualities and are not for sipping flavor. 


To avoid the margarita and mojito rut this season try a taste of Rio de Janeiro.



1.5 oz Cachaca

Lime (quartered)

0.3 oz Lime Juice

Tbsp. Raw Sugar

Splash of Soda Water

Into a rocks glass combine sugar, lime (three chunks) and lime juice then muddle.  Add ice (crushed if desired).  Pour in cachaca, seal the glass with a tin and shake.  Remove the tin and splash with soda.

The cousin to this cocktail is the Caprioska, done with vodka in place of cachaca.

The Short Buzz is a regular post here at the Daily Blender highlighting spirits.   

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