A Sip of Brazil: The History of the Caipirinha

a person holding a caipirinha on the beach

This article is part of a series developed in partnership with Project Pulso.

Ah, the Caipirinha: Brazil's most famous cocktail that has evolved from humble medicinal beginnings to stealing the global limelight at upscale bars.


Where did the Caipirinha come from, and how did it become Brazil's liquid ambassador to the world?

The Caipirinha’s origin story, though still debated, seems to take us back to early 20th century Brazil, in the sugarcane fields of São Paulo. While it's celebrated now as a party drink, its inception was far more medicinal. It’s believed sugarcane farmers would mix lime, garlic, and honey with cachaça—a Brazilian distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice—to ward off the Spanish flu. Over time, the garlic and honey exited stage left, making way for sugar to enter the scene, and the modern Caipirinha was born.

photo of a sugarcane plant

https://commons.wikimedia.org/

The word “Caipirinha” is derived from the Portuguese term "caipira," which refers to someone from the countryside. In a playful twist, “-inha” is a diminutive suffix, adding a touch of affection or endearment. So, in essence, Caipirinha might translate as "little countryside drink."

No history of the Caipirinha would be complete without a nod to cachaça. Initially seen as a "poor man's drink," cachaça has ancient roots in Brazil, dating back to the 1500s. Over the centuries, its production methods refined and evolved, transitioning from a rough spirit to the smooth, flavorful backbone of the Caipirinha we know and love.

During the 20th century, Brazil started making a mark on the global stage with its rich culture. From the rhythmic samba to its unparalleled soccer skills, Brazil was in the limelight. Alongside these, the Caipirinha began its global journey. Tourists who tasted this delightful concoction in Brazil's sunny beaches returned home with tales of a refreshing cocktail that epitomized the spirit of Brazil.

So, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Caipirinha became a staple in bars and restaurants worldwide. With the increasing popularity of Latin American cuisine and culture, the Caipirinha found its place among the pantheon of classic cocktails like the Mojito and Margarita.

Intrigued? Here’s how to make the classic Caipirinha, courtesy of Project Pulso:

@pulsoeats

Excited to kick off this cocktail series with @thelucasassis 🍹 Let us know if you try this one! #LatinoRecipe #DrinkRecipe #DrinkTok #DrinkHistory #FoodHistory #Brazil #cocktail #cocktails #cocktailrecipes

a mother talking to her little daughter while the daughter sits in a sofa

First things first: I’m a “mande” girlie. That’s just how my mama raised me, even though I won’t say it’s right.

Keep ReadingShow less
Image of Vice President Kamala Harris

Originally published inThe Latino Newsletter–reprinted with permission.

Ever since President Joe Biden announced on Sunday afternoon that he would not seek a second term and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the 2024 Democratic Party nominee, several Latino Democrats and organizations have been sharing statements of support. Here is just a sampling of the Harris endorsements. (FYI, the New York Times has a comprehensive list of all Democratic elected officials who are all in for Harris as of Monday morning. This list is being updated, and other Latino Democrats are on the complete list.)

Keep ReadingShow less
Latina having coffee and looking thoughtful

Today there are many labels I proudly use during introductions. I am a first-gen Guatemalteca-Mexicana college student. Identity is one of the things we use to define ourselves and we cling to it- it’s our orgullo. Latino culture is orgullo. I, along with many others, understand what the experience is like when we’re told we don’t look as if we have the privilege of feeling the pride that is our culture.

Keep ReadingShow less