tasting caipirinha in serbia tipsy pilgrim

Brazil’s cultural output is failsafe trendy, so of course the Brazilian national cocktail was destined to be taken up in better bars the world over. But the results are horrifying; here’s my notes taken from personal experience and from Brazilians living abroad.

FYI, for background, here’s a description of the caipirinha and the correct way to make it.

Germany

Every caipirinha that I’ve been served in Germany was in a giant glass and heavily watered down with seltzer. Perhaps this is because Germans are used to big glasses of beer, and would feel cheated by the shorter tumbler that a caipirinha is generally served in? A proper caipirinha, of course, contains no soda water at all.

France

One of the highest compliments that the French give is “correct“. The word means the same as in English, but also: proper, canonical, the-absolute-best-possible-of-its-kind-because-it-conforms-to-unquestioned-and-historically-determined-values. In American English, we would use “awesome” to express a similar affinity, though probably never in referring to the same thing.

In French eyes, une caipi correcte is the canonical caipirinha and therefore good; their attitude is much like mine in describing the orthodox version of the caipirinha, but, unlike me, they’re wrong. I’ve been to any number of parties where French people fought over what the “correct” caipirinha is, based on each person’s memory of his or her drunken experience in a hostel kitchen in Rio during carnaval. This, the various French will tell you, nodding wisely, is how one crushes the ice, this is how one chops the limes — there are the correct ways to do these things or else your caipi will come off as foul as a wine that hasn’t been decanted properly, or a cheese served at the wrong temperature.

On occasion I’ve tried to explain to the French not just the orthodox caipirinha, but also the joys of variations, like the caipirinha de morango (strawberry caipirinha) or the nevada (with condensed and coconut milk), only to see French faces pucker at the thought like assholes spritzed with lime. “Mais ce n’est pas correct !

Most caipirinhas served in Paris are pretty good though.

Austria

My Brazilian correspondent living in Austria complains to me that bars always use the shittiest brands of cachaça. In defense of Austrian bartenders, pretty much all of the cachaça brands available in Europe are considered the “shitty brands” in Brazil. Also, even many upper-class Brazilians use the shitty brands when they make caipirinhas. Demanding drinkers save the good cachaças for drinking straight.

Bahrain

My correspondent stuck in Bahrain is flummoxed with caipirinhas made from brown sugar.

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Catalonia

Limes are a bit difficult to come by in Catalonia, whereas even the most dingy fruit stand in a corner store will definitely have lemons. Some bartenders don’t understand the difference and/or don’t care. The result is a disaster.

Serbia

Almost any self-styled “fashionable” bar in Belgrade will have caipirinhas on their menu, but if you order one — and I nearly always try — they’ll usually say that they don’t have them “today”. If they do attempt to make you a caipirinha, it may include any number of the fouls listed above for the other countries: lemons, seltzer, brown sugar… The caipirinha I tried in the video below was watered down a bit, but actually one of the better Serbian ones.

The Netherlands

My justifiably horrified Brazilian correspondent in the Netherlands reports of strawberry ice cream topping being poured over caipirinhas; also, she complains, the limes are not as fresh as in Brazil and the sugar (from beets instead of sugar cane) is not as sweet.