The Caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, is a summer favorite and it is made by muddling limes with sugar, then adding cachaça and ice. Cachaça is often called Brazilian rum, since it’s made from sugarcane, but rum is mostly made from sugar by-products, like molasses, while cachaça is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice. It’s less refined and retains more of the aroma and flavor of the sugar cane - the term you’ll often hear to describe it is grassy. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? That’s why today I’ll teach you how to make the classic Caipirinha, as well as a Cocktail Time version, incorporating interesting flavors, with a fun and interactive presentation you probably haven’t seen before.
Starting with the classic, crushed ice is often used for this drink, which has its advantages, but from what I could find ice cubes are usually called for in Brazil and sometimes it’s even a shaken cocktail. For simplicity’s sake, the ice cubes will allow us to build it in the glass.
• ½ lime
• 2 barspoons superfine unrefined sugar
• 60mL (2oz) Cachaça
Cut off the ends of a lime and half it lengthwise. Then cut out the middle bitter part, before quartering 1 half and placing it in the glass. Add two bar-spoons of superfine unrefined sugar, covering the limes pieces and muddle to extract the juice and essential oils, soaking and dissolving the sugar in the process- Tip: If your sugar isn’t fine enough, a well cleaned spice grinder or even a mortar and pestle will do the job. Now add the Cachaça, fill the glass with ice and stir with a barspoon, chiling and mixing all of the ingredients.Then top the glass with a bit more ice and an optional lime wedge, if the patron wishes to add more lime juice later.
If you follow these steps you’ll end up with something special indeed. The aroma lets you know this will be citrusy and refreshing and you can even pick up the aforementioned grassy notes before you take the first sip. It’s incredibly balanced for a drink made like this - aromatic, vegetal, citrusy and perfect for a hot summer day, especially in Brazil. There's a good reason they crowned this as their national drink, it’s delicious. So should one even make an elevated version of this national pride?
Inspired by their state motto of Brazil, Ordem e Progresso, I decided to give the revamped Caipirinha a go. I kept the cachaça, sugar, and lime, but in different forms - I played around with molecular gastronomy and added a few ingredients as well. Looking for ways to play on the vegetal notes of cachaça I turned to Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold and found a technique he calls Justino that allows you to incorporate flavors of fruits or vegetables into spirits, while keeping them clear. He achieves this by adding fruits or vegetables to a spirit, adding an enzyme to break down the pectin, blending, then centrifuging the mixture until clear - this was the inspiration to mix cachaça with red cabbage. But don’t worry, you don’t really need a centrifuge to make it work. As for the lime and sugar, I made a cordial, in the form of liquid spheres. The cocktails will be sprayed with some lavender perfume. All that means we have some ingredients to prepare.
Red Cabbage Justino
• 22.5g dehydrated red cabbage
• 100g water
• 300mL (10oz) Cachaça
• 0,6g Pectinex
To get the dehydrated red cabbage, just cut some fresh cabbage thinly and spread it out evenly to dehydrate it using your prefered method - an oven or a dehydrator could work, but I’m using the power of this summer heat. After it is fully dried, add it to a blender alongside 100 grams of water. We want to be in control of the water content in the Justino and this also will make sure our yield isn’t too small. As the base is of course Cachaça, we’ll add it next and lastly the Pectinex, which will help you clarify all fruit and vegetable juices with pectin. Now blend everything for long enough to feel the spinning blades heat up the liquid inside (the higher temperature will help with the clarification process).
Time and pectinex will now do it’s thing, so leave it for about an hour or so and then all you’ll have to do is strain the liquid - Tip (yes, another one!): I placed a muslin cloth on a potato ricer, which will give me the option to squeeze out all of the liquid from the red cabbage. The first liquid coming through is usually still a bit cloudy, so make sure to re-filter the Justino afterwards with a coffee filter. Once that is done your Red Cabbage Justino is ready to be used. Move on to the cordial and the liquid spheres.
Lime Cordial Spheres
• 18g lime peels
• 6.15g citric acid
• 3.07g malic acid
• 240mL (8oz) water
• 45mL (1.5oz) lime juice
• 123g sugar
• 11.2g calcium lactate
• 1000mL (33.3oz) water
• 5g sodium alginate
In a process similar to making super juice I’ll first make oleo citrate. So in a jar place the lime peels, citric acid and malic acid (the ratios are a bit different than with super juice), muddle a bit and let sit for about an hour. Once the acids pull out the essential oils from the peels, we’ll place everything we need in a blender, starting with the oleo citrate. Then rinse the jar that held the peels and acid with 240mL of water, and pour it into the blender. Next add the lime juice and sugar, since we’re making a cordial after all. 123 grams. Blend for 30 to 40 seconds to dissolve the sugar, then filter out the peels.
That’s your lime cordial ready (if you want to make a gimlet, set some aside). For the reverse spherification we’ll need to add calcium lactate to the cordial. So weigh how much cordial you have and add 3% of the weight in calcium lactate. Blend thoroughly to dissolve the powder before pouring 30 ml (1oz) of this mixture into separate molds. Don’t worry about the shape, you just want it to hold at least 30 ml. Since this is not viscous enough to form nice spheres in the sodium alginate bath we need to freeze it.
Once it hardens you’ll need 3 baths for our reverse spherification process. The first will be the water and sodium alginate mix, which makes the spherification possible and it is made by blending together 1 liter of water with 5 grams of sodium alginate and leaving it to sit in the fridge until there are no more air bubbles and it becomes clear again (around 24 hours). The other two bowls are filled with just water. After the sodium alginate has been in the fridge to settle from blending, heat it up slightly, to about 50°C (120°F), before you add the frozen cordial - this will help the cordial to melt and form a sphere once we drop it in the bath. So transfer the cordial from the molds into the sodium alginate mix, moving it around slightly so it forms a sphere and leave it in the first bath for about 3 minutes. Then transfer the spheres into the 2nd and 3rd bath, producing lime cordial in a membrane of lime cordial.
Geeky stuff right? Don’t worry, we’re just one step away from making the elevated Caipirinha.
• 30mL (1oz) vodka
• 4 drops of organic lavender oil
Add to a container you can use to spray the perfume with and shake well to mix. That’s it. It’s time to reward your patience with a great cocktail.
Cocktail Time Caipirinha
• 45mL (1.5oz) Red Cabbage Justino
• 15mL (0.5oz) Sake
• 2 drops saline solution
• 1 Lime Cordial Sphere
• Garnish with a lavender sprig
• Spray it with lavender perfume
First chill your mixing glass, while also tempering a large clear ice cube. Before you place it in a lowball glass, use the back of a spoon and a torch to make a small dent on top of the cube for the cordial sphere. The ice cube will then chill the glass as we make the cocktail.
Start by adding the Red Cabbage Justino, sake and the 20% saline solution to your mixing glass with ice and stir to chill & dilute. Then strain the cocktail into the glass, next to the clear ice block. Once you’re done place 1 Cordial Sphere carefully on the same ice cube, a sprig of lavender on top of that and hit it with a few sprays of the Lavender Perfume, for some floral fragrance. Lastly, as you serve the cocktail, place a small cocktail pick in the glass for the cordial.
As the guest pierces the cordial sphere it leaches out and through your drink, slowly sinking to the bottom. More importantly, the guest sees the interesting phenomenon of the drink changing color from purple to red - acids in the cordial can do that to red cabbage. Interesting, right? As for the tasting notes, lavender aroma hits first, but you can also pick out lime and red cabbage. On the palate, an explosion of flavors. Grassy Cachaça works incredibly well with red cabbage, complementing the freshness of Sake and the lime cordial. A subtle peppery undertone of cachaça leaves an almost vegetal aftertaste, and you’ll dive right in for another sip.
Is it a lot of work? Maybe. But that’s how you make progress, and after a sip everything is in order. Saúde, Friends of Cocktails.
To make it easier for you to try these recipes you can grab the bottles from my collection at CURIADA.