Monday, February 11, 2008

Japanese Caipirinha??


Caipirinha (standard recipe)

1.75 oz Cachaca
1/2 Fresh Lime
1 teaspoon superfine cane sugar

Cut ½ lime into thirds and muddle with the sugar in a rocks glass. Fill with ice cubes and add cachaca. Place mixing tin over glass, invert and shake well. Pour contents (do not strain) back into glass, and garnish with lime wheel.

(Like many cocktails, the Caipirinha’s ingredient proportions vary considerably depending on the recipe. It appears that most people adjust the amount of lime, sugar and cachaca to suit their taste. The above recipe is my favorite.)

Caipirinha (variation)

1 oz. Cachaca (I used Pitu)
1 oz. Sake (I used Momokawa Diamond)
1 tsp. Ground crystallized ginger
1/2 Fresh Lime

Grind the crystallized ginger until it forms a coarse paste. (I used a mortar & pestle, but since the ginger is soft, you should be able to grind it up easily in a bowl with the back of a spoon)

Cut 1/2 lime into thirds and muddle with the ginger in a rocks glass. Fill with ice cubes and add cachaca. Place mixing tin over glass, invert and shake well. Pour contents (do not strain) back into glass, and garnish with lime wheel.


I discovered the Caipirinha about a year ago and I immediately loved it. The simplicity of its recipe appealed to me, and the no-frills sweet/sour/spirit combo is fantastic. Plus, I get to play with my muddler. Any drink that calls for squashing stuff with a hunk of wood is OK in my book.

So when I was considering which classic drink to corrupt with my graceless tinkering, I gravitated toward the Caipirinha. I knew I didn’t want to add anything, which could potentially change the entire character of the drink. I also didn’t want to remove an ingredient and destroy the great three-way balance among the ingredients.

This left me with substitution. But rather than trying out random ingredients in a maelstrom of trial-and-error, I decided to let aroma be my guide. I closed my eyes and took several whiffs of the open cachaca bottle to see if it suggested anything (I’m an unapologetic bottle-sniffer, and can often be found rapturously inhaling the delightful fumes from my bottle of Luxardo maraschino. Don’t judge me.).

It wasn’t long before I had one of those “light-bulb-over-the-head” moments. Ginger seemed like it might be complementary, and since I had the crystallized kind (which contains sugar) handy, that’d take care of the sweetness.

After mashing some up in my trusty mortar & pestle, (getting to use another gadget...bonus!) I tried out the conventional recipe…substituting the ginger for the sugar. Unfortunately, the ginger got lost, overwhelmed by the punchy cachaca.

That’s when I opened the fridge and spotted the unopened bottle of sake.

Some sort of perverse inspiration struck, and I made another quick tweak: I knocked the ¾ oz. off the cachaca and replaced it with an ounce of sake. Yeah, I know I technically violated my earlier rule about not adding anything, but it’s my own rule and I can bend it if I want.

Anyway, I think it works. The cachaca still forms the backbone of the drink, but the sake puts a crisp, dry angle on it. And adding it somehow freed up the ginger, which now comes out as just a little wisp on the finish. Best of all, it still tastes fundamentally like a Caipirinha, which is great because I didn’t want to totally transmogrify the thing into something unrecognizable.

The only problem was I had no idea what to call it. I figured something like “Asian-inspired caipirinha” or “Caipirinha Japanese-style” was perfectly accurate, but lacked zip. I’ll keep working on it. Suggestions, as always, are encouraged.

And don't forget to swing by Jimmy's Cocktail Hour and check out all the other great contributions to this month's Mixology Monday!


Colonel Tiki said...

That looks delicious. Now I need to get some sake.

Anonymous said...

An elegant description of your experimentation process. I also am not complaining about having to buy some cachaca and sake. Here's to exploration!

Anonymous said...

Why not call it a "Brazillian Samurai"? Or maybe that makes the influences sound backwards...

The "Kyoto Cassava"?

"Dr. Bamboo's Awesome Brazilian Fusion Funk"?

Anonymous said...

Sake's a great mixer.

I've actually had ginger before in caipirinhas. It works well.

And that's a great illustration. It really made me smile!

Dr. Bamboo said...

Craig- I really know nothing about sake...but the various Momokawa types seem pretty tasty (they're not terribly pricey either).

Cynthia- Definitely grab up some cachaca and sake while you can. Being a fellow PA resident, you know as well as I that if you see something one day, it might be gone the next.

Dood- I like "Brazilian Samurai". It's got a nice exotic ring to it!

Mike- Glad you liked the pic! And I figured somebody out there already used ginger, but I guessed it was likely a ginger syrup- I wanted to see what using something closer to fresh might yield.

I'll keep tinkering...

Justin said...


Dr. Bamboo said...

Damn. I like that one too. This may be decided by a coin flip...;-)

keith waldbauer said...

dang, i love caipirinha's. so easy to whip up at the bar and never fail. that, and you get to incorporate seasonal fruits so easily, especially when the berries become fresh. blueberries and raspberries.... drooool... i'll have to give your Braziliian Samurai a whirl....

Anonymous said...

How can you not sniff up a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino every time you open it? I’m with you, brother.

See if you can root out a bottle of Velho Barreiro cachaca. It’s around $12 a liter here in MI and shares some likeness with $100 bottles of single-village Mezcals I’ve been fortunate to try.

Nice site! Cheers

Anonymous said...

Velho Barreiro in the Detroit Metro Times.