I suggested an essay about Brazil's national beverage, caipirinha. It seemed an easy theme. I was wrong. As the drink itself, caipirinha's history is mixed up with cachaça's.
But lets not mix things yet. “Cachaça”, as regulated by brazilian finance ministry in the decree-law number 4.851, is the national spirit made out of distilled fermented sugar cane, optionally aged in oak barrels for the characteristic flavour and smell.
Etymologically there are two versions for the name's origin. As a spanish citizen, I will tendentiously present my dear readers with the one I like the most: the name comes from the spanish “cachaza”, which still used in spanish to designate a low-quality, young wine made out of whatever fermented vegetable sugar the farmer could lay hands on.
And that was how the cachaça was born, as a low-quality distilled beverage for internal farm consumption, not long before the portuguese colonized Brazil. It was introduced in the country by the portuguese lords together with the sugar cane, and was sometimes distributed among the slaves in special occasions.
It gradually became more sophisticated, acquiring a distinguished taste and a lot more popularity worldwide, to the point of threatening the portuguese wine and garapa production, forcing the sales down and making portuguese government initially try to forbid its production, and then tax it heavily. This money funded Lisbon reconstruction after 1756's earthquake.
The brazilian lords also weren't familiarized with Brazil's fruit diversity, but the african and indigen slaves quickly learned about the refreshing wonders of mixing up garapa (the unfermented sugar cane juice) with citric fruits, specially lime (Rutaceae Citrus).
This custom rapidly migrated from the senzala (the slaves quarters) to the country house, where the brazilian lords started mixing it up with the now noble and expensive cachaça. And the caipirinha was born.
The name came later, from one of the most famous and talented brazilian writers of the XX century, Monteiro Lobato.
Lobato's Jeca Tatu is a brazilian stereotype created in 1917 winter and used to criticise what he called the indolent half-breed custom of destroying vegetation using loosely controlled fires, which caused big problems in his farm.
Lobato's character was nicknamed “caipira” (or “caipirinha”, a diminishing diminutive). The word is derived from the Tupy-Guarani “curupira”, which means “one that lives in the trees”. Jeca Tatu was frequently associated with the cachaça, in a corrosive and degenerative way.
A new level of detail was added later by describing the caipirinha's drink as a mixture of cachaça, lime juice, and honey. Without realizing it, Lobato christianized the drink.
The caipirinha finally made its way to the International Barman Association in june 1993, with the help of Derivan Ferreira de Souza, the International Barman Association Vice-President for South America and a well-recognized brazilan barman.
Souza personally advocated in favour of the inclusion of the traditional brazilian recipe, despite other rum and vodka distilleries attempts to register their own versions of the cocktail under the same name, simultaneously.
Well, after all this information, you deserve a drink. So, here is my suggestion:
Monteiro Lobato's Caipirinha.
a green lime;
2-3 tablespoons honey;
2-2.5 ounces cachaça;
3-5 ice cubes.
a short tumbler (also known as “old fashioned glass” or “lowball”);
a wooden muddler;
a tea spoon or wooden stick.
Dice the lime into 8 parts, taking care of removing the white core (it makes the mixture unecessarly sour).
Put the diced lime and honey into the short tumbler and muddle it smoothly, extracting as much juice as you can from the limes and mixing it a bit with the honey.
Add the ice cubes and, on top of that, the cachaça. Serve with the tea spoon or wooden stick. Mix it well (to dissolve the honey and lime into the cachaça) before drinking.