After living in this wonderful city for five months I’ve developed certain weekly habits and my week is not complete unless i’ve sat down in the local bar with a caipirinha in hand. This native drink is not only delicious but seriously packs a punch due to the fact it’s made up of only a few key ingredients: limes, sugar, ice and cachaça. Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane and goes perfectly with the limes and sugar to take the edge off this sour cocktail. When in Rio you are never too far away from a Caipi and below you can find out the best places to savour this Brazilian classic.
Bar da Cachaça
The Bar de Cachaça is located in the centre of Lapa, Rio’s party neighbourhood, and at the weekends is full to the brim with Rio’s partygoers sampling some cachaça before moving on to somewhere else to dance. This bar specialises in different types and flavours of Cachaça and the options are limitless. It costs five reais for shot sized measure of cachaça and the idea is that you try a few and if you enjoyed what you tried; each different cachaça is available by the bottle. However, it’s not just its individual cachaça that makes this place so popular, they also make one of the best caipirinhas in Rio. Priced very reasonably this bar is the perfect place to try a caipirinha whilst watching the carioca nightlife rush by.
Splash out for a caipi with the perfect view
Due to Rio’s mountainous terrain there are plenty of hilltop bars and restaurants where you can sip on a Caipirinha and soak up the famous nighttime skyline. Santa Teresa is one of Rio’s hilltop neighbourhoods and home to a favourite restaurant of mine: Aprazivel. Due to its expensive prices Aprazivel is more of a ‘one off’ or special occasion option, however it is still definitely worth a visit due to its incredible view and tree-house like atmosphere. The restaurant consists mainly of outside wooden seating and the whole place has a beautiful bohemian feel to it. If you’re on a tight budget and like me wish to avoid the gourmet food with big price tags then you could treat yourself to a Caipibella, this drink adds a twist to the traditional Caipirinha by adding carambola (star fruit) and passion fruit. The price is not forgiving coling in at 31 reais for the Caipibella put its delicious and the surroundings are incomparable, therefore if you can visit make sure you do so.
Sample a caipirinha from one of the many street vendors
Although for the last option you would have to dig deep into your wallet, caipirinhas are not traditionally expensive. In fact it is incredibly easy to get your hands on a cheap caipi just about anywhere in the city from one of the street vendors. Whether it’s in Lapa, Praça Tiridente or on Copacabana beach, there is always a caipirinha nearby, provided by one of the hundreds of street vendors: Ranging from about 5 to 10 reais most of the stationary vendors make the caipirinha fresh in front of you and on the whole the quality is good. My personal favourite spot is the last caipirinha hut before the Aquaduct in Lapa. It is run by two women who remember all of their customers and greet any returning clients with a big hug a kiss, their caipis are on the cheaper scale at 5 reais each and qt the weekend they offer free refills of cachaça. Ths is perfect place if you’re looking for real bang for your buck and for the opportunity to meet two friendly cariocas.
Make your own!
Unlike in Europe where cocktails are almost exclusively served in bars, in Brazil it’s commonplace to make a pitcher of caipirinhas at home to share with friends. It can also be the most cost effective option depending on which cachaça you buy. 51 is the cheapest and arguably most popular brand of cachaça, costing just 11 reais per litre bottle. However it must be said that it is not exactly known as a good quality cachaça. If you can, try and find a carioca to show you how to make a caipirinha, there are certain tricks you need to know in order to make the perfect Caipi. For example, some say you should remove the white pith from inside the lime as it makes the drink more bitter. However i’m not one to ask advice from, even after months of practice my caipirinhas are not up to scratch. Sometimes it’s best to leave it to the Brazilians!
By: Lucy Gavan, student of Spanish and Portuguese culture at the University of Bristol in England, currently living in Rio as part of an exchange programme with Rdj4u.