Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy National Cachaça Day!!

Today, September 13, is the unofficial but increasingly-recognized Brazilian National Cachaça Day (Dia Nacional da Cachaça). The date was chosen because way back in 1661, on September 13, 1661 to be precise, the Portuguese crown authorized the production of cachaça - a distilled liquor made from sugar cane juice. Apparently there had already been many years of clandestine cachaça production in Brazil, and under pressure from producers and consumers, the king of Portugal decided to legalize (and tax) the drink in 1661.

Since that date, uncountable billions, or possibly trillions, of gallons of cachaça have been consumed in Brazil, and in recent years, around the world. Even with a growing export market, however, Brazil manages to drink 99% of its cachaça, sending a mere 1% overseas. Long considered a workingman's drink, cachaça has steadily been working its way upmarket, and most of the growth in the market is in aged and premium cachaças.

Of course, it's impossible to celebrate National  Cachaça Day without toasting it with a caipirinha - THE iconic cachaça cocktail that's Brazil's contribution to the Cocktail Hall of Fame. To honor the 2010 edition of the holiday, noted Brazilian drinks consultant Márcio Silva has divulged his recipe for "The Perfect Caipirinha (A Caipirinha Perfeita). It differs from the classic recipe for a caipirinha (which can be found here on Flavors of Brazil) primarily in the use of simple syrup instead of granular sugar. According to Silva, the use of syrup allows the sweetness of sugar to integrate totally into the drink and makes it easier for the mixologist to control the sweetness of the cocktail.

Here is the recipe for a Perfect Caipirinha (translated and adapted from Folha de S. Paulo)

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RECIPE - Perfect Caipirinha

For the simple syrup:
1 lb (500 gr) granulated white sugar
1 cup cold water

For the caipirinha:
1 large juicy lime
1 1/2 oz (50 ml) good-quality cachaça
cubed ice, broken
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Make the syrup: Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and continue to boil, stirring constantly, until it is totally dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Put the syrup into a clean bottle or jar and refrigerate. Can be kept up to one month in the refrigerator.

Make the caipirinha: Wash the lime well. Cut in half, then cut each half into four pieces. Put the wedges of lime in a tall glass, then add 2 Tbsp. (20 ml) simple syrup (more or less, to taste). With a pestle, or the handle end of a large wooden spoon, crush the lime wedges, making sure to extract all the juice. Add the cachaça and the chunks of cubed ice. With a long cocktail spoon, mix the drink until all the ingredients are combined and the drink is cooled.

Serve immediately.

(A previous version of this post referred to September 15 as National Cachaça Day in error.)

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