Friday, April 16, 2010

How To Make a Caipirinha (Legally)

Once again I've come across an example of governmental bureaucracy gone wild, this time courtesy of a blog called Cachaçagora (You can find a link to it in the right column of this blog, under "My Blog List). As if there were not more pressing matters do be dealt with, Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture decided back in 2008 to publish a decree as to what gave a cocktail the right to call itself a caipirinha.

Brazil's national drink has a long history, and a very simple basic recipe with only three ingredients - cachaça, sugar and limes. Over the course of the years, numerous variations have appeared, some with new names, and some using the name caipirinha. It appears the Ministry of Agriculture has no problem with the caipiroska, which substitutes vodka for the cachaça, or with the caipirissima, which replaces the cachaça with rum, but they really don't like it when somebody makes a lemon caipirinha, or a strawberry caipirinha, or a whisky caipirinha.

Consequently, the Ministry published the following decree in its official gazette to help those who want to make a caipirinha, but somehow err along the way.

Article 1 - The object of this Technical Regulation is to establish the standards of identity and quality which a caipirinha must obey.
Article 2 - This Technical Regulation both to any caipirinha sold in the national territory, as well as any sold outside Brazil.
Article 3 - The caipirinha is a typical Brazilian drink, with alcoholic strength between fifteen and thirty-six percent by volume at 20 degrees Celsius, made with cachaça, lime and sugar, to which water may be added to standardize the alcoholic strength, and additives. A drink made according to these standards and prepared by a technical process appropriate to ensure its presentation and conservation until the time of consumption  shall be called a caipirinha.
Article 4 - The ingredients used in the preparation of a caipirinha are:
a) - basic ingredients - cachaça, lime and sugar.
1. The permissible sugar is sucrose - granulated or refined sugar - which can be partially or completely substituted by inverted sugar and glucose, in quantity not superior to 150 grams per liter and not inferior to 10 grams per liter. Substitution by by artificial or other natural sweeteners is not permitted.
2. The utilized lime may be in a dehydrated form and must be present in a minimum proportion of 1% lime juice and 5% citric acid, expressed in grams per hundred grams.
b) - optional ingredient - the water used must obey the norms and standards approved by legislation for drinking water, and must be conditioned, exclusively, on the standardization of the alcoholic strength of the final product.
Article 5 - the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages used in the preparation of a caipirinha must adhere to their own standards of identity and quality as defined by the appropriate legislation, if it exists.

Whew! What a bunch of overblown language, resulting in absolutely no clear idea of what a caipirinha is or how to make one. I'm not going to bother with helping readers of Flavors of Brazil any further as to what a caipirinha is, but in the next post, I'll provide the classic recipe for a caipirinha. From that point on, you can make one yourself. Once you've tasted a true caipirinha, you'll have no problem identifying one from that point on - even if you forget to bring your "Technical Regulation for Standards of Identity and Quality" along with you to the bar.


  1. Jim,

    Will this new legislation put and end to the cachaçaria parties! One of my co-workers told that his friends now have cachaçaria instead of churrascaria!


  2. Doug - I don't think there's any danger of that ever happening!

    Incidentally, I love that word "cachaçaria". Do I have your permission to start using it?

  3. Yikes! I am so glad my own homemade caipirinha is quite "legal"!

  4. This doesn't make any sense! Why are they regulating a drink, if they are regulating it to the lowest possible quality?

    It is stupid: after this standard, you might use a powdered sweet & sour mix, you don't even need to use limes, you don't even need to use proper cachaça. But you mustn't use something like agave nectar or fructose?
    And then is the temperature - which even makes less sense. A drinkable caiprinha, is definitely after preparation below 0ºC - a good one at -5 ºC. And the regulations states 20ºC [I guess, that this was a presumption, not really based on facts].

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