The base spirit in the Caipirinha is a Brazilian sugarcane distillate called cachaça. Translating to “burning water”, there are accounts of cachaça’s production as early as the 1500’s. And though it does have a long history, it is still very much finding it’s way. For too long, the vast production of this unique spirit has been handled by a few large companies who have been known for making a fiery and unrefined product from molasses. This unfortunate practice has given cachaça a bad name.
These days, however, we are seeing a shift toward smaller production and higher quality. There are several small labels making “artisanal” cachaça from fresh-cut sugarcane. These producers employ highly controlled, delicate distillations within pot stills; they then ferment the juice more delicately, from local wild yeast strains. At Gotham, quality is always what we’re interested in, and so we’ve been excited to try some of these bold new versions of the drink.
Most people’s first exposure to cachaça (“ka-sha-sa”) is in Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha (“kai-peer-een-ya”). A Portuguese word that translates to “little pleasant girl”, the Caipirinha’s origins have been traced back to the mid-1850’s. The drink fits into a classic cocktail category known as “sours”, which in its simplest form is a base spirit mixed with with sugar and citrus. Most “sours” are modified with fresh citrus juice and simple syrup and then shaken and strained over fresh ice. The classic Caipirinha on the other hand uses a muddler to squish the lime segments and sugar together. Although this is a more labor intensive approach, when citrus fruit is muddled the essential oils in the skin are released into the mixture adding dramatically more flavor.
To make this Brazilian classic, slice the ends off a lime and halve them from end to end. Slice away the pith from the central column, then quarter each half. Add six lime quarters to a shaking tin, with the peels facing down, then add the sugar cube and simple syrup. Gently muddle to extract the oil from the peel and juice from the meat. Add cachaça and ice. Shake and dump into a rocks glass.
MEANWHILE AT GOTHAM
Here on 12th Street we take a drink that is symbolic of summer and integrate the flavors of the season by infusing fresh blueberries and thyme right into the spirit itself. This gives the drink an alluring color and and fresh summer flavors. The bright citrus and berry fruit is backed-up with the savory herbaceous notes of the thyme. Ideal to sip while perusing the Gotham menu or a nice match for some of our lighter appetizer dishes.
We hope you’ll stop in to try for yourself. Though, if you can’t make it to 12th Street, we hope you’ll try out the recipe at home.
BLUEBERRY & THYME CAIPIRINHA
Recipe by Gotham’s Bar Director, Jason Hedges
2 oz Blueberry & Thyme Infused Avua Cachaça
6 Lime Quarters
1 Sugar Cube
.75 oz Simple Syrup
- Muddle lime and sugar.
- Add the blueberry and thyme infused cachaça and shake.
- Dump unstrained into a rocks glass. No garnish.