“Aren’t we going to Florida this year?” asked my 90-year-old mother recently in what I can only describe as a tone of recrimination.
We had just heard from yet another family member who was either planning or returning from a vacation in a warm spot. We don’t actually go somewhere warm every year. We aim for a spring break every other year—and we were in Key Largo last year. I guess the extended mud season in western Massachusetts was simply getting to the normally stalwart Jan Weisblat.
Unfortunately, our spring was already pretty heavily scheduled. Instead of taking my mother to the tropics, therefore, our family decided to bring the tropics to her. For one fabulous evening we wore leis and dined on foods that are not native to the northeast.
OF COURSE, we started with a cocktail! I am so old fashioned that I thought the tropical drink of choice was a piña colada or a mango margarita. My more sophisticated brother David and his wife Leigh informed me that the chic crowd now sips a caipirinha. This Brazilian limeade packs a major punch, thanks to a sugarcane-based liquor known as cachaça. My brother actually found cachaça in a liquor store. You may substitute white rum or vodka if you like, however. Non-drinkers like my nephew Michael and me may simply use seltzer.
Feel free to vary the formula below depending on how sweet and/or strong you like your cocktails. My sister-in-law Leigh likes her caipirinha with three teaspoons of sugar instead of two. My mother likes it with three or FOUR teaspoons of sugar (make sure it dissolves if you try this), only a few drops of cachaça, and a lot of seltzer.
2 teaspoons sugar
enough crushed ice to fill a cocktail glass
cachaça as needed (probably about 2 ounces for a non-seltzer-using drinker)
Roll your lime along a table- or countertop several times to release the juices. Wash the lime. Cut it in half (saving the second half for another drink!), and cut away and discard the white center strip.
Cut the lime into pieces, and place the pieces (pulp side up) either in a glass or in a mortar bowl. Place the sugar on top. Use a pestle or clean wooden stick to crush the lime and sugar together for a short time.
If you have used a mortar bowl, put the sugar/lime mixture in a glass (otherwise just leave it in the glass!). Fill the glass with crushed ice, pour in cachaça to the top of the glass, and stir well. Pop in a straw or a festive umbrella, or just decorate the glass with a bit of lime.
Makes 1 potent caipirinha.