In 1918 the Spanish flu claimed claimed more victims than all of the First World War. People had to cope with an epidemic, and in the Alentejo region of Portugal a recipe of lemon, garlic, and honey was given to flu patients, a remedy still used today as treatment for the common cold. As is often the case with home remedies, alcohol was added for that extra boost of health. Eventually the recipe evolved into what is now known as a Caipirinha, the garlic and honey being removed, and, thanks to some farmers near Sao Paulo, Brazil, cachaca added. The green lemons, those used in the original recipe because of the vitamin C, were replaced with limes for what is, essentially, a cocktail similar to a Daiquiri.
The Caipirissima is a variation of the Caipirinha that substitutes rum for cachaca, but it's not the only variation. There are many, including the Caipiroska, which is made with vodka, and others which add more ingredients, such as berries or other flavorings. The Caipirissima, however, is arguably the closest relative to the caipirinha because of the nature of cachaca. Cachaca is made from sugarcane and is perhaps more similar in taste to rhum agricole. It's grassy, earthy flavor sets it apart from rum, but, should one paint with a broad brush it's certainly close enough to rum in general that cachaca is sometimes called Brazillian rum.
Fair enough, but we don't have Brazilian rum in Oregon. We do, however have rum. Casa Magdelena, a Spanish style rum that's become our default choice for Daiquiris, is a collaboration between Portland's own House Spirits and Ingenio Magdelena in Guatemala where the rum is produced. It's a no brainer to use it in a Caipirissima, but before we do, let's consider ice. The Caipirissima is one of the few cocktails that's served with the ice used to make it, so let's pick our ice with care.
How do you know which ice to use in your drink? We've all seen drinks with one big block of ice, drinks with ice cubes, drinks with crushed ice and drinks with pebble ice, but what's the difference? Ice serves two purposes in a beverage, it chills and it dilutes, and the ice you choose depends on how much or little of either the drink requires. Big ice will chill more than dilute, and crushed ice will dilute as much as chill. That means in a spirit forward drink, like an Old Fashioned, a big rock of ice is preferred because you want to chill the beverage, yet dilute it as little as possible. With less surface area than several ice cubes, or crushed ice, a big piece of ice will melt slower.
Summer drinks, drinks served in tropical climates and drinks with heavy syrups or sweeteners benefit from pebble ice, or crushed ice because dilution is important. Water will thin out thick syrups, and chill a beverage faster. This makes sense when you understand how chilling and dilution work. When it comes to ice, you can't have chilling without dilution, and you can't have dilution without chilling. The question then is how fast do you want to chill and how much dilution are you willing to accept, or, how fast do you want to dilute and how much chilling are you willing to accept?
Obviously, you want the chilling. In an Old Fashioned, the big ice chills slower, but lasts longer. In a warm weather cocktail, a Mint Julip, perhaps, you want to get it super cold super fast. Crushed ice will do that, so the drink is often designed to take advantage of the associated increase in dilution.
The Caipirissima is a tropical drink, and benefits from crushed ice. We favor pepple ice here because crushed ice will melt away while mixing, and, since we're using our mixing ice to serve, we want some of it left. To make sure, a technique called "rolling" is used to mix the cocktail, and involves passing the ingredients back and forth between two glasses. If you have a Boston shaker, you could use the two halves to roll your drink, but we favor 2 pint glasses. If you don't have those, use mason jars, or mugs, or just find something.
Lime wedges are used in the Caipirissima instead of lime juice, so you'll want to muddle a lime, cut in quarters or small pieces, in the bottom of one of the mixing glasses. Then, add your spirits, syrup, and ice. Pour the cocktail from one glass into the other, then back again. Do this 3 or 4 times, then pour everything into a rocks glass and serve. Get flamboyant if you must and make a show of it for your guests, like an old time bartender pouring back and forth achieving great height and distance to great applause. Really, this is good because it aerates the beverage, something shaking does, but we're not shaking, so put on a good show and have a tip jar ready.
Then settle in and enjoy one of the most refreshing cocktails that looks just as good with those limes floating around among the ice. What you just made is rum soaked limeade, and if that doesn't pick you up and properly refresh you, you might have the flu. Get some rest, but keep the cocktail handy. It's what it was meant for, remember.
In a pint glass, muddle the limes being sure to extract juice from the pulp and oils from the skin.
To the pint glass with the limes, add the remaining ingredients.
Fill a rocks glass half full with pepple ice, then add the ice to the rest of the ingredients in the pint glass.
Pour the contents of the pint glass into another pint glass, then back again. Repeat 3-4 times.
Pour everything, ice, limes and all, from the pint glass into the rocks glass and serve.
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