My Northern Californian version of the caipirinha was inspired by a charming and charismatic Bread Man at our local farmers market. His stall was our first stop every market Saturday. Besides selling a wide variety of delicious bread, he’d also always offer a smile and treats for our kids. ”Your daughters are beautiful,” he’d say as he handed us some complimentary sweet rolls and sometimes a few toys. We reciprocated with our loyalty, and one day my husband wanted to give him a small gift.
We’d discovered a teeny Brazilian mart nearby, where you could buy itsy bitsy bikinis, Brazilian flags, pao de queijo and discount air tickets to Rio. They also sold the earthy Brazilian equivalent of Folgers, Pilao coffee. We were hooked on its assertive flavor. On his most recent visit, my husband picked up an extra bag of Pilao for the Bread Man, whom he was sure would be surprised and happy to see a familiar taste of home.
Instead, the Bread Man’s usual sunshiney smile turned into near-rage. ”I am not your typical Brazilian. I do not drink coffee. I do not play football. I do not listen to samba. My favorite food is sushi.”
After that unintended insult, things were never the same. The Bread Man would skip over us for the next person in line, and needless to say, gone was the friendly banter and sweet rolls offered gratis.
I wonder how he would have reacted if we had instead offered him a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. The caipirinha is made with cachaça, which is distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, and in its homeland is consumed in the amount of 53 million gallons yearly. To make a caipirinha, cachaça is stirred with the juice of limes muddled with sugar to make a refreshing drink.
For the Bread Man, whom we didn’t mean to offend or stereotype, I’ve reinterpreted the classic lime-based recipe. In this version, I’ve substituted sunny California Meyer lemons, accented with a subtle herbal note of thyme. As a bonus, the colors of this drink match the Brazilian flag. —Beautiful, Memorable Food
Test Kitchen Notes
This drink packs a wallop. The tart Meyer lemon balances the sugar cane notes of the cachaca well. The thyme lends a delicate perfume. If you are a thyme fan don't be afraid to muddle an extra sprig. I found the drink a tad boozy, but a couple of ounces of seltzer smoothed it out and turned it into a highly refreshing beverage. If you're a fan of traditional caipirinhas you should definitely give this version a spin. —hardlikearmour
sprigs of fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons
granulated white sugar
1 1/2 ounces
Roll lemon on a counter to release juices, then cut into small wedges.
Remove leaves from 2 thyme sprigs (done easily by running the sprig through the tines of a fork).
Muddle the thyme leaves, lemon wedges and sugar together in a glass.
Add cachaça and stir.
Cover with an equal amount of crushed ice to fill the glass.
Garnish with a thyme spring and lemon wedge.
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