The best caipirinhas in Brazil are found in Paraty, and hundreds of cachaças too from all over the country. This is a fact, unless you can find one that looks better than this one… Paraty also has an endless stock of cachaça liquers with jabuticaba, cacao and other fruity Brazilian delights to soften the blow of the rocket fuel, including the Gabriela (cravo & canela, cloves & cinnamon) which actually comes from a novela based around a Jorge Amado book title. The book was based in Ilheus, Bahia, the writer’s home town, but the novela was filmed in Paraty and stayed behind afterwards to influence the most famous cachaça liquer in town, and one that really does the trick on the few cold nights of the year there. The best caipirinha for taste also comes out of Paraty, being the only place where you can find the caiçara version on the menus. This is a mixture of lime and passion fruit, named after the local people who occupied the coastal fishing villages of the Costa Verde, and they complement each other wonderfully. Caipirinhas such as these have been responsible for many a lost night trying to keep footing on the wobbly cobbles of the historic centre in Paraty, which is hard enough sober.
The caiçara caipirinha led to other things. One day at home I made a spicy caiçara fruit juice based on the passion fruit and lime idea, adding some fresh ginger because it is the healthiest thing you can have in a fruit juice, and also some honey instead of sugar (you can have this one for free). It was so well-balanced and such a perfect mixture that it must be the best fruit juice I’ve ever tasted. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite got the balance so well since then, but hey.
So another drunken night in Paraty, Blondie couldn’t even pronounce ‘caipirinha’ properly, and it came out as ‘caipiranha’. Immediately it sounded like something fun, a serendipitous portmanteau of two of the finest things Brazil has, the caipirinha and the legendary piranha fish. So sat around the table we decided that we’d have to each make our own version of the caipiranha. Until now, only one has been invented, and that was mine. I went back to the spicy caiçara fruit juice and thought that being a caipiranha, then my cocktail would need to have sharp teeth.
There is only one way to provide that, which is of course to add pimentinha, fresh chili pepper.
The test run went well, at least for me. The group who tasted the caipiranha actually approved it but couldn’t handle so much pimentinha in a drink. I finished it with numb lips and a throat that didn’t know what to think about the mixture that had just made its way down, but the overall effect was highly memorable and enjoyable, and the invention goes down as a palpable hit in my eyes. Perhaps the best way to use the caipiranha cocktail though is as an excellent end-of-night challenge between friends. Only for those brave enough or drunk enough to tackle it.
I wish boa sorte, the best of Brazilian luck to anybody who wishes to try it.
Especially for Dorothy. Some kind of Recipe:
To make one large one to pass around the group (Brazilian style) or to drink and grudgingly give a small taste to others (my style):
1 large Passion Fruit (they are big in Brazil) or maybe two of the small ones
2 tsp Natural Honey, possibly more to take the edge off the lime and the tang from the passion fruit. Brazilian Caipirinhas are VERY sweet so plenty of honey might be needed to match
A thumb-nail of fresh Ginger
1 fresh medium red chili - for Brazil a Dedo de Moça (Woman's Finger) would be about right, although definitely cut to taste! Green chili perhaps for a milder idea.
First up, I would finely chop or grate the ginger and the same with the stalk-half of the chili. For a stronger bite, chop more chili, for weaker, less.
As with a regular lime caipirinha, you half, quarter and then eighth the limes first and grind them in the pilao, the traditional Brazilian mortar and pestle used to make the cocktail, and which also make good souvenirs/presents.
This is used to gently crush the juice out of the lime, in order to bring out the juice but not the bitterness of the white lime pith. Adding honey to the mixture, and then the contents of the passion fruit. Another idea for decoration with the large Brazilian passion fruits is to just take the top off, like a boiled egg, scoop out the inside and then use the case as your drink container! The skin has to be thick and without any holes for this to work though. (In Bahia, this is done with cacao cocktails, a most beautiful-looking drink).
I prefer to leave the passion fruit with seeds intact, as I like to chew them and prefer the taste without them being crushed. No blender involved whatsoever, and especially not for the limes. Mixing in the ginger and chili should give you a lovely green-orange colour, peppered (geddit?) with red specks, something like a good Thai sweet chili sauce perhaps.
Add in the chopped ice, stir it all up, and then comes the piece de resistance. The second half of the chili can be sliced a quarter of an inch from the cut and placed on the edge of your glass. Your drink now has a tooth, and you are ready to get bitten by your very own caipiranha!