I enjoyed my first caipirinha at a cutesy little Bohemian bar. Bossa Bistro was a Brazilian-themed spot in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. They had a Samba band playing, and the was cachaça flowing. I drank too many caipirinhas and ended up samba-ing my behind right to the throne of shame. But, me and the Soldier enjoyed that date night, regardless. And I discovered a new, favorite cocktail.
Fast forward to now. I’m better at pacing myself with the potent cachaça and my Guarapo Caipirinha is more refreshing (and less expensive) than anything I’ve ever had at a bar. I use freshly made guarapo as a base and, as a result, my caipirinha has a different element of taste to it. The guarapo makes it taste a bit like caramel. For an authentic Brazilian Caipirinha recipe, check out my friend Aline’s post on How to Make Caipirinha.
What is Caipirinha?
Well, in short, it’s Brazil’s most popular libation. Caipirinha is now popular worldwide because of it’s light, yet potent, taste. Cachaça is definitely the star of this show. Unlike it’s close cousin, rum, cachaça is not made from boiled (or refined) cane juice, or molasses. It is the fermented juice of pressed sugarcane. So, four simple ingredients: cachaça , sugar, lime juice, and ice- and you have caipirinha. The addition of fruit pulp or nectar will give you any variation of the original. For now, I’ll stick to the original…with a slight twist, as you know I like to do.
Begin with the Guarapo
Guarapo is a sugarcane juice that is enjoyed around the world as a way to beat swelteringly hot temperatures. A traditional caipirinha is made by muddling lime wedges with sugar. Since I don’t do anything by the book, I’ve decided to take my favorite refresher- guarapo– and use it instead.
It’s a very simple process. Just add eight cups of water to a four quart saucepan and place an eight ounce cone (or disc) of piloncillo in the pot with the water. Piloncillo is unrefined sugarcane pressed into a cone (like the image above) or a disc. This is, in my opinion, the closest thing you can get to pure sugarcane from the plantation. It’s not hard to find these days, either. Just traipse on over to your grocer’s Hispanic food aisle and you should be able to grab one.
Bring the water to a simmer and let the piloncillo begin to dissolve in the water. Kind of like you’re making a tea.
Encourage the piloncillo to dissolve by stirring every once in a while, but keep the temperature on low. You don’t want the water to boil and evaporate too much. That would leave you with caramel instead of sugar water.
Once the piloncillo has dissolved in the water, remove it from the stove and allow it to cool completely.
Add the Lime Juice
While your guarapo is cooling, juice a bunch of limes. We’re going to be adding more lime juice to the caipirinha, but I like to tone down the sweetness in the guarapo base, as well.
You can use a citrus juicer, or a citrus reamer, to juice the limes.
Mix the Guarapo
To finish the guarapo, combine the sugar-water and the lime juice together in a large pitcher. Stir in a handful of ice to make it really cold. At this point, you can pour the guarapo over ice and give it to your kiddos. However, going forward it’s a twenty-one and over affair. Awwww yeah!!!
Making the Guarapo Caipirinha
Fill your cocktail shaker with three jiggers (four and half ounces) of cachaça. Typically, the cachaça would be added after muddling the lime with the sugar; but since we’re eliminating the sugar, we’ll muddle the liquor with the lime, instead. Savvy?
Squeeze the juice from the lime wedges into the cocktail shaker and drop in the lime peels. Use a muddler to mash the peels and extract their oils.
Now add a handful of ice cubes to the shaker.
Follow the ice with four ounces of the guarapo you made earlier.
Place the cap on the shaker and shake vigorously until the shaker frosts on the outside.
Strain and Serve
Strain your caipirinha cocktail into two, ice-filled double old-fashioned glasses. Garnish with a wheel of lime, a sugarcane swizzle stick, or both, and enjoy responsibly.
Pin this recipe for later. I mean school is starting, and we all know that means PTO meetings and school pick-up lines.
- 8 ounces cold water
- 8 ounce piloncillo cake
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 8 limes)
- 4 1/2 ounces cachaça
- 1 large lime, cut into wedges plus 1/2 of a lime, sliced (for garnish)
- 4 ounces guarapo
- 1 cup ice, plus more for serving
- sugarcane sticks, for garnish (optional)
Begin by Making the Guarapo
- In a large stock pot, bring the piloncillo and water to a simmer over medium heat.
- Stir frequently to dissolve the sugar.
- Once dissolved, allow the mixture to simmer for 4 minutes.
- Remove from the stove and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (or place in the refrigerator to cool completely).
- Once the guarapo is cold, add the lime juice. Stir to combine.
- At this point, you can reserve the 1/2 cup needed for the cocktail and serve to children as a non-alcoholic beverage.
Mix the Caipirinha Cocktail
- Fill your cocktail shaker with the cachaça.
- Squeeze the juice of one lime into the cocktail shaker, then drop the lime peels into the shaker. Use a muddler to mash the peels and extract their oils.
- Add a handful of ice cubes to the shaker.
- Follow the ice with 4 ounces of prepared, and cooled, guarapo.
- Place the cap on the shaker and shake vigorously until the shaker frosts on the outside.
Strain and Serve
- Strain your caipirinha cocktail into two, ice-filled double old-fashioned glasses.
- Garnish with a wheel of lime, a sugarcane swizzle stick, or both, and enjoy responsibly.
Caipirinha isn’t the only libation in town.
Try these other drinks: