BEIRUT: With the World Cup set to kick off in Brazil, serious fans are wondering where the best place to watch the games will be. There are multiple factors to consider in choosing the right spot: outdoor vs. indoor, posh vs. popular, how close you can hope to get to a screen to actually see the game, to name a few.
But for those who want a taste of Brazilian spirit with their football, drink options must also be considered. In fact, forget options – nothing is more Brazilian than a caipirinha.
The national drink of Brazil, a caipirinha is a relatively simple concoction: muddle a few chunks of lime in sugar, add cachaca and crushed ice, and voila.
The key ingredient, cachaca (pronounced ka-sha-sa), is a Brazilian spirit distilled from cane sugar, often compared to rum, though not in Brazil. While rum is distilled from molasses, cachaca is derived from fresh sugar cane, which distillers say gives it a fresher, fruitier taste.
“Cachaca has a strong alcohol content and a nice perfume – a spicy caramel that can be good in many drinks,” said Nino Aramouni, a mixologist at Gemmayzeh’s Dragonfly bar.
While there are plenty of cachaca brands – Dragonfly carries four – Aramouni insists that when making a caipirinha, the cheaper the cachaca, the better.
- 6 cl cachaca
- 9 cl guava juice
- Splash of triple sec
Pour guava and triple sec into a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and add Leblon Cachaca. Shake vigorously. Serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a rose petal.
Courtesy of Leblon Cachaca
However, Bernard Daher, head bartender at Gatsby Pub in Downtown’s Uruguay Street, says that higher-end brands are quite popular.
“Sagatiba Gold, aged in barrels of special wood, is good in a caipirinha, but is often ordered straight, with no ice, like a fine whiskey,” Daher said.
With caipirinhas, there are variations. Brazilians, who seem to drink it like water, consuming 1.3 billion liters annually, would consider any cachaca-fruit juice combination to be a variation of the “caipi.”
Dragonfly offers three types of caipirinhas: classic, fresh fruit, and a “Campirinha” with Campari. The bar’s most creative option using the Brazilian spirit is Rio’s rosemary, a combination of melon, cachaca, sour mix and rosemary. They also use cachaca in their SOHO iced tea.
Aramouni, a diehard Brazil fan, is hoping to install a new flat screen TV so that customers can enjoy the games from the bar.
Roody Khalil, bartender at Coop d’etat on the roof of Saifi Urban Gardens, is gearing up for the World Cup crowds.
After figuring out where to mount the screens and how to get a legal connection to show the games, his biggest challenge is finding limes. The bar’s supplier imports limes from Mexico, where supplies have been unsteady, reportedly due to drug cartel interference with the trade. The New York Times reported this spring that the price in the United States had quadrupled between February and March. In Beirut, the price has jumped – though not that high.
“The price has shot up from LL11,000 to LL25,000 per kilo,” he complained, “but these lime crises happen all the time.”
Khalil has never been to Brazil, but he has had many Brazilians come to him.
“Every 40 days, we have a ship arrive in Beirut Port filled with Brazilian beef. The crew gets a couple days of R&R and comes looking for caipirinhas,” he said. “They actually prefer lemons over limes and prefer the cheapest cachaca on offer. Seems back home they drink caipirinhas like tea, just adding lemons and sugar to taste.”
It seems there is some debate over exactly how to handle the muddling of citrus and sugar.
“My Brazilian friends keep muddling lemon and sugar until they get something that looks like a puree. But if you’re using limes, don’t over-pound them. It will make the drink bitter,” Khalil said.
However and wherever you drink your caipirinhas this month, watch out – they can pack quite a punch.
“Some bartenders cut the pour to 3 cl because the alcohol content in the cachaca is so strong,” Aramouni said, before quickly adding: “but we put 5 cl in all our cocktails.”