After recently comparing 3 cachaças I felt it would be good to also test the ultimate cachaça cocktail, the caipirinha. For the most part, I followed the excellent instructions from the Caipirinha.us website which can be downloaded in PDF here. While these instructions suggest Fazenda Mae De Ouro I think the instructions fit all caipirinhas and they’re the best instructions I’ve seen for anyone who has never made a caipirinha.
I have to admit that I did divert from these instructions in a couple ways. These instructions say to “Always use Superfine Cane Sugar (Domino Brand)” but I really don’t like such overly-processed sugar, so I used Trader Joe’s Organic Cane Sugar. I think this sugar adds a bit more depth to a rum cocktail without going over the top with a more flavorful sugar like turbinado. And since this is a very coarse sugar I made a 2:1 simple syrup from it, and used 1 tablespoon of this mixture per drink.
I feel these changes are slight, and I made each cocktail as identical as possible – I used limes that looked identical in size, lined up 3 glasses with the lime and simple syrup, muddled the same number of times, randomly grabbed a glass for each cachaça, measured the ice for each, and shook each equally in a Boston shaker. I just don’t feel that the comparison of the cachaças could be fair unless everything else were identical. Finally, my wife numbered each glass so that I could taste them blind. It was the best I could do to make things fair. This blind test, however, was a waste of time since I identified each cachaça immediately simply by smelling the caipirinha. But I tried.
The sniff test showed some strong notes coming through, very distinctive floral notes. This was a good cocktail, but the cachaça was a bit too overpowering and thus the cocktail lacked balance. That one distinct taste was strong enough to overpower all of the subtler flavors, and the only other noticeable flavor was lime. No balance, no depth. I have to say that I certainly would not complain if I was served one of these, and I might even prefer it if I was in the mood and desired a strong cachaça taste in the cocktail. But the lack of balance and depth dropped this down a couple notches.
Fazenda Mae De Ouro
This caipirinha had many more smells and flavors going on, though they took a bit of coaxing due to their subtleties. But none were distinct, and they all balanced very well with the lime, resulting in a nicely balanced cocktail with depth and some complexity. This was easily the best caipirinha of the bunch.
This caipirinha started out dull with the sniff test, and didn’t fair any better when sipped. The lime was the dominant taste in this cocktail due to the lack of flavor in the cachaça, and the result was simply boring. There was no balance because there was little taste beyond the lime. But I could see how a typical drinker, one who’s never had a good caipirinha, would like this cocktail. Even in its worst form this cocktail is very drinkable on a hot day, and quite refreshing. But the same people who would enjoy this would probably be the ones tired of Rum & Coke, or those who wanted to drink a “fancy cocktail” rather than a Budweiser. Sure, it’s tasty, but one can do so much better.
Once again the Fazenda Mae De Ouro comes out on top in this comparison, though the Beleza might be preferred by those who want a distinct cachaça taste in their caipirinha. But the depth and complexity of the Fazenda make the difference between a good caipirinha and an excellent one, and that’s what I’ll drink.