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Camper English says “Move Over, Mojito!”

By Camper English

Thanks, mojito, it’s been a great five years of your domination of the Latin cocktail menu. You’re as delicious as ever, but we’re feeling stifled. It’s not you, it’s us. It’s time to move on. And besides, we’ve met someone else.

The caipirinha (pronounced kai-pee-reen-yah) is the simplest of drinks, invented by the sexiest of people — Brazilians. To make one, you muddle half of a lime with up to two teaspoons of sugar in a glass, then add ice and cachaca and stir.

Cachaca (ka-SHA-sa) is essentially rum from Brazil, but it doesn’t taste like rum from everywhere else — it’s made from sugar cane juice rather than the usual molasses (which is itself a byproduct of sugar production from cane). Whereas most other rums can taste of caramel and vanilla picked up from aging in barrels, unaged cachaca tends to be more funky, raw, and vegetal.

Only a couple brands are available in most places, but the caipirinha trend is driving more and more imports each month. Most cachaca you’ll find on store shelves is not aged in barrels, so it can have the roughness of a lesser vodka.

Sometimes you can find cachacas aged several years, meant to be sipped without mixer as you would a fine rum, but these are both rare and expensive in the United States. The stuff I like for caipirinhas has sat in wood for a short time to mellow it, but not so long that it’s no longer mixable.

…if you’re really lazy, buy the Beleza Pura® premixed caipirinha: For a bottled cocktail, it’s not half bad.

The caipirinha is a versatile drink that lends itself to expansion. You can make a one in any number of flavors by muddling some other fruit in with the limes. Brazilian restaurants have entire caipirinha menus, or menus that rotate depending on what other fruits are in season.

At home, try your luck with flavored caipirinhas, serve the drink up as a “caipirini,” or substitute cachaca for rum in any number of other drinks — even your old flame, the mojito.

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