Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
It’s the 23rd of October, which means that once again the birthday of Edison Arantes do Nascimento, much more widely known as Pelé, is here. The man is considered to be the greatest soccer player ever, which, if you ask me, is a fine excuse to celebrate.
Since he’s Brazilian, why not raise a toast to him with a caipirinha? Pelé himself doesn’t drink, but that’s as may be - Caipirinhas, made from muddled limes, sugar and cachaça (the distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice that’s Brazil’s national drink), are refreshing and potent in equal measure. Muito bom!
Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly the range of cachaças here in the U.S. that exists in Brazil. There are hundreds, in fact, ranging from get-the-job-done megabrands like Pitu and Cachaça 51 to esoteric, aged, artisanal versions aromatically influenced by time spent in barrels made from exotic woods like jequitibá, umburana, ariribá and ipé. (If you find yourself in Rio, it’s definitely worth making a side excursion to the Academia de Cachaça, a quirky bar that features over 85 different cachaças on its menu.)
So: Pelé, Brazil, caipirinha. Makes sense, right? Here’s the way to go about it. Take half a lime and cut it into four wedges. Muddle the lime (muddle, that is, do not mash to an oily pulp) together with one to two teaspoons sugar in a cocktail shaker. The amount of sugar is essentially a personal preference. Add a cup of ice and two ounces of cachaça (I prefer Beleza Pura, if I can find it, or Mae de Ouro; otherwise Leblon works perfectly well). Shake vigorously, then pour everything into a rocks glass. Drink. Repeat. Go forth and kick a soccer ball into a goal while doing a backflip, just like Pelé. See? Easy.
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