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Raising a glass to Brazil's national cocktail, the caipirinha

November 4, 2009 |  2:30 pm

Caipirinha-blog Now that Brazil is slated to become the first South American country to host the Olympics, maybe Americans will pay more attention to one of its finest exports: cachaça. Made from fermented sugar cane juice, the clear, fiery liquor puts the defining kick in Brazil's national cocktail, the caipirinha.

Made with cachaça, muddled lime and sugar, a caipirinha is a profoundly simple beverage that perfectly captures the restless, vibrant spirit of the nation that loves it. Unfortunately, though, we don't seem to have much of an appreciation for it in the States.

"I'm still amazed how challenging it is for people to say caipirinha and cachaça," says Steve Luttmann, the founder of Leblon Cachaça, one of the new boutique brands that have been making inroads in the U.S. in recent years. (Don't be one of those people. Say kye-peer-EEN-yah and ka-SHAH-sa.) Luttmann cites a study by BuzzBack Market Research in New York indicating that awareness in the U.S. of the caipirinha among cocktail drinkers is 30%, compared with 85% for the mojito, the caipirinha's closest cousin.

As someone who quit her job and moved to Rio de Janeiro for a month because she loved caipirinhas so much (OK, I also loved the beach, the music and the churrascarias), I am here to say: You're missing out, America.

To read the rest of Jessica Gelt's story, click here.

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Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times