How to make the perfect Caipirinha
A smart new Brazilian restaurant and cocktail bar, Mocoto, has opened in Knightsbridge, so I thought I’d go down and check out their Caipirinhas, which is to Brazil what the Margarita is to Mexico. And one of my very favourite cocktails.
I got the barman, Hindaugas, (Lithunian not Brazilian!) to take me through how he made them. The ingredients are dead simple: cachaa (pronounced ka-sharsa) a rum-like spirit made from sugar cane, limes and caster sugar. Cachaa can be a bit rough but theirs was the much-hyped Sagatiba (pronounced sagga-cheeba, which apparently means ‘never-ending story’. Hmmm). The limes they use are also special, very juicy and much more fragrant than the ones you find in supermarkets. (It would be worth sourcing them from a specialist fruit and vegetable shop)
First he halved the lime and made several vertical incisions through the skin without cutting right through the lime. He put both halves in a tumbler and added 2 good teaspoons of sugar then pounded it with a muddler ‘Not too much otherwise you’ll get too much bitterness from the skin’. He filled the tumbler with cracked ice (‘not crushed ice which melts too quickly’), poured in 2 shots of cachaa and stirred.
The crucial tip though was not to drink the Caipirinha straight away but to let it rest, stirring it a couple of times to melt the sugar and let the spirit pick up the flavour of the lime. The last bit of the drink is the best’ said Hindaugas. (Personally I thought it was pretty good all the way through.)
You can drink Caipirinhas with the same sort of snacks you’d eat with a Margarita, Daquiri or a Mojito - salsa fresca and tortilla chips, guacamole and empanadas (of which there is a Brazilian version at Mocoto) but I enjoyed the Pasteles de Palmito, little deep-fried pastries stuffed with palm hearts and cheese.
There’s also a rather swanky restaurant downstairs. A bit corporate but the food is really good. We shared a terrific crab gratin served with hot chilli-flavoured oil and a wedge of lime and then each had one of Brazil’s famous seafood stews, a Moqueca and a Vatapa, both based on shellfish and coconut though the Vatapa also contains dried shrimp and peanuts. They were spicy but not hot and went stunningly well with an exotically floral Torrontes, from a producer called Colom in Salta. I’ve always been at a bit at a loss as to what to pair with Torrontes, which I confess is not one of my favourite wines, but this was a good example and a great match.
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