The Cocktail College Podcast: How to Make the Perfect Caipirinha

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On this episode of “Cocktail College,” host Tim McKirdy dives into an iconic Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha. He is joined by Gui Jaroschy, co-founder of Unfiltered Hospitality in Miami. They discuss the best ways to incorporate ingredients into this drink, riffs on the classic, and the lost art of muddling. Tune in to learn more.

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Gui Jaroschy’s Caipirinha Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 whole lime
  • 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces unaged cachaça, such as Novo Fogo

Directions

  1. Cut the lime into 8 equal pieces.
  2. Add 6 of those pieces to an Old Fashioned glass.
  3. Add sugar and muddle until all ingredients have combined.
  4. Fill glass with ice and top with cachaça.
  5. Seal using the small half of a Boston shaker tin and shake until chilled.
  6. Dump into the same Old Fashioned glass, top with extra ice if required, and serve.

CHECK OUT THE CONVERSATION HERE

Tim McKirdy: Hey, this is Tim Mckirdy and welcome to VinePair “Cocktail College.” We’re here and we got Gui Jaroschy joining us today, te fala Caipirinhas. I’m not sure if that makes sense in Portuguese, but welcome, man. How’s it going?

Gui Jaroschy: Doing very well, Tim. How are you doing?

T: I’m doing great, thank you. I do mention the weather a lot, but unfortunately it is kind of rainy and gray again here in New York. I guess the April showers have seeped into May. But we’re going to bring some sun into our life with a holy trinity of lime, cane spirit, and some sweetener in there, too. How’s that sound?

G: Sounds perfect to me. Just about every day, but especially on this hot April Friday in Miami.

T: Hot Friday in Miami? I’m definitely jealous right now. I think either way, this drink we are going to discuss today is one, like I said, that does kind of brighten up any occasion. How about for yourself, though? How do you feel about this drink in terms of it being a notable cocktail? Because that formula that I outlined there in the beginning, it’s the classic tiki formula in a way. There are others that maybe you think of first, the Daiquiri or maybe a Ti’ Punch. But how do you feel about the Caipirinha?

G: Like you said, it builds on that most holy of sour build strategies. But this one just feels a little bit more rustic, beachy backyard kind of fun. It’s just super refreshing to drink, unlike the Daiquiri, which feels to me like an indoor cocktail that you drink quickly before it warms up. With the Caipirinha, you kind of enjoy it over time and let it develop in the glass and it works in a bar as well as at the beach or in a backyard or something like that.

T: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. This is not a cocktail that takes itself too seriously. Like we mentioned in the Daiquiri episode, I don’t think bartenders are going around from bar to bar and being like, “OK, let’s see this guy’s Caipirinha specs.” Do you know what I mean? You order this drink and you have it for fun times.

G: Right, exactly. It’s one of these cocktails that, beyond just the sweet, sour, and booze balance, you need to balance the bitterness, the dilution and all those things. So we really should be asking the bartender for their Caipirinha spec because you’re balancing more than just the alcohol level to the sweet and the sour. You’re balancing some bitterness and actual raw ingredients that have different weight. So you have to be very intentional with this cocktail to get the best results.

T: Yeah, exactly. I think of things maybe on the writing front. A really good article feels effortless. It feels like the writer just wrote it. But actually there’s a lot of editing that goes on behind the scenes to make it good, like a good episode of a podcast as well. And that’s the thing with a Caipirinha, it should seem effortless. But like you say, you need to pay attention to this, and we are going to dial into it today. Before we look at preparation, before we look at ingredients, what can you tell us? This is a Brazilian cocktail, but what can you tell us about some of the known history of this drink?

G: Great. As a Caipirinha enthusiast, I was kind of embarrassed as I was preparing for this podcast to realize that I didn’t have a ton of background history in terms of where it originated, how long it was being made. But I learned a lot that was pretty interesting. And again, like every cocktail, the background is somewhat murky. People can lay claim to it and this and that. But essentially they trace it back to the Spanish Flu times when the cocktail was made with cachaça, muddled lime, honey, and a bit of garlic. And that was sort of the proto-Caipirinha. A little less refreshing and boozy, I think. But there’s also some bit of that that says that they were drinking this sort of drink before the Spanish Flu. Again, we can get into as much Brazilian and Portuguese history as we want to. But cachaça was like the spirit of the enslaved or the spirit of lower-means Brazilians that were taking the foam or left-out bits of the sugar cane juice and distilling it to make a spirit that helped them get through the day. And there was a great bit of pressure by the Portuguese to get rid of it all for a number of reasons; economic reasons and general control reasons and all those sort of ugly things that seemed to come up in the history of every spirit especially in the sugar cane- growing world. At that time, the Portuguese were really trying to push their wines and fortified wines, and cachaça was looked at as something that needed to be gotten rid of. It was only later in the 1800s that it was looked at as sort of as…

T: Something to be celebrated?

G: Exactly, a proud differentiator of what would soon be a free Brazil.

T: Like a national symbol right there.

G: Right, exactly. That’s kind of when the Caipirinha, as it’s known now, starts to really show up. So the official recognition of Caipirinha was 1918, but we can guess that it was coming along and being made before that.

T: And these are just ingredients that go so well together, so naturally. It’s interesting that we do find these in different parts of the world kind of popping up together. They do marry so well, so naturally. I found it very interesting that you were mentioning very, very humble beginnings for this drink. From someone who’s a former chef here, I’ve often marveled at that in the culinary world. Some of the best dishes, some of the dishes we celebrate the most are actually the ones that were “peasant food” in the beginning, but they’re the ones that we love now. You see it so much in French cuisine, even something like the bouillabaisse. It’s this incredible soup, but it originally came from the fish that the fishermen couldn’t sell at the market. Or maybe they’re not thought of very well and suddenly, you’re making this stew. But anyway, that’s a huge diversion there.

G: If I may, I think it’s kind of like a welcome diversion. This podcast is for people of all interest levels; bartenders, not bartenders. When we do training with bartenders, we really speak about the importance of giving people an experience you’re after and selling what the experience is like. So that you don’t have to push against the most expensive spirit behind the back bar, if that’s considered sort of upselling. What you’re really upselling is an experience. You take a guest and say, “When I get off work, what I like to do is shoot a rowdy shot of overproof rye, and that just puts me in the right spot,” and they can come along with you and say, “Oh, man, I’m into that. I’m ready for that experience.” It’s kind of what’s now happening with things like mezcal, where 20 or 25 years ago, that’s a peasant spirit or something that’s made out in the country. It’s not really being consumed in high-end spots. And it takes enough people saying, “Oh, we’re looking for these interesting flavors.” Hey, it has this taste because it was made like this and it can be consumed like this. Now all of a sudden, that’s a very sought-after ingredient that can fetch higher than some multi-year aged tequilas, etc. So there’s no selling short, bringing unique ingredients is kind of discovering what you like about them and sharing that with other people.

T: Talking about mezcal there, right? Imagine on one hand, you have bottle servers. You have $1,000 bottles of vodka or maybe tequila that agave aficionados don’t love. And then with the insiders or the real aficionados, you see these guys come back from Mexico with plastic bottles with particular mezcals with just the name written on it in pen. It’s so funny that those are the more coveted things. I think that really ties into what we’re chatting about here. That idea for bartenders upselling experiences, ultimately guests want to feel like insiders, and they love that kind of thing.

G: Right. I feel like right now, perspective or authenticity is the most in-demand commodity there is. I hate to use the word commodity for that, but you know what I’m saying? People are looking for someone’s perspective, whether it’s through social media and through the many forms of things that we consume. It’s more valuable than ever in hospitality to kind of say, “Hey, this is what I like” or “This is what I know about.” You want to kind of come along for that experience.

T: One of the best currencies out there are these little tidbits of knowledge that you can get and you can just share with people at a bar. Actually, that’s not how they drink this in Italy. Or, actually, this is where this came from. It is a really wonderful currency. But speaking about being at the bar and you yourself are based there in Miami, where does a Caipirinha fare? Just in terms of a drink that people order and the current-day status and popularity. How are things looking for the Caipirinha these days?

G: That was something that really stood out to me most as I started thinking about the drink. I’m an old guy. I came up in bartending in the mid-2000s. But I really came into the cocktail world and then into my own in the beverage industry in the 2010s. They were wildly popular then because the whole fresh ingredient movement was really coming back. People were doing away with bottles of Rose’s Lime and started to bring fresh produce in and making cocktails that tasted fresh. And then they’d be just muddling everything, mainly fruit. The Caipirinha was a perfect vessel for that. And I feel like guests were really appreciative of this fact. Oh, my God, they’ve been drinking Gimlets with Rose’s Lime and gin and all those not-so-great drinks of the ’90s and ’80s. So the Caipirinha had a huge moment there. There was a hotel here in South Beach, The Mondrian. When it opened, the entire menu of the main lobby bar was only Caiprinhas and Batidas.

T: Wow.

G: It’s kind of perfect because they’re brightly colored, they’re refreshing, they’re fruity and fun. You would think that that would mean it would still continue to progress with cocktails. Due to the way that cocktail bars kind of operate now, which is a combination of everybody wanting it to be clean — I don’t remember the last time I even had a Mojito with smashed-up bits — there was kind of a movement away from muddling. Because now we’re making these great cocktails and we have more chefs behind the bar that make cool compound syrups in the back. As cocktail bars got more popular, the volume demand has gone way up. So now it needs to be three pickups, even in some of the nicest cocktail bars you go to in any city. So I feel like the Caipirinha has kind of suffered from that. I was part of the opening team at Broken Shaker here in Miami in 2012, and we used to change our menu every two weeks and then it moved to three weeks as I became the bar manager and a little bit lazier. We changed the entire menu every three weeks. We had seven or eight cocktails, and one was always a Caipirinha. We got to make a ton of really fun and sort of creative twists on it. You ultimately have to have that muddled lime component, for me, to really think of it as a Caipirinha. It’s just pouring lime syrup or some sort and cachaça and shaking and straining it over fresh ice. Now it feels more like it’s bastardization, I don’t know if we can say that on the podcast. But anyway, I’m getting off course again but…

T: Actively encouraged on this podcast.

G: OK, perfect. Good, we like rambling. To answer your question directly, I feel like it’s fallen a little bit out of favor with modern drinkers. I would think almost purely because of the way that the cocktail bars that would be making them operate these days. Luckily in cities like Miami, and I would presume New York, there’s a large enough Brazilian population that keeps the drink afloat. There’s a place called Boteco down the street from my house, and they just churn out Caipirinhas all day, every day.

T: I think it’s a great point you make there. I obviously have a slightly different perspective of how things evolved, having spent those years in the U.K. But I definitely remember, around 2014, we were about to have the Olympics in Rio and the World Cup. And there was this real Brazilian kind of fever there happening in the U.K. You couldn’t watch BBC without there being a program about Rio or Brazilian life and things like that. It was really wonderful and I remember the Caipirinha sort of having a moment there, but also to your point, also almost being a little passé by that point. I think it kind of went a little bit the way of the Mojito, too. You mentioned that drink and I think there’s a lot of similarities there just in terms of maybe in the status of those two drinks. You mentioned something that we may cover again and I think it’s important to maybe explain for folks that aren’t familiar with this term. But you spoke about Batida drinks. Can you tell us what those are and how that relates to this cocktail?

G: That’s the second most popular style of cocktail in Brazil. Essentially that’s going to take cachaça, generally a citrus or a little bit of an acid component, sweetener, fruit, and then either a coconut cream or a condensed milk. Generally, those are swizzled. They’re made in glass with crushed ice. And they can range in all different styles of fruit flavors. Again, you can switch between that condensed milk or the coconut, but they are a delicious but decidedly richer, fruit-forward cocktail than the Caipirinha.

T: That’s awesome. And the Caipirinha itself, you mentioned at the top, is something that requires more thought than is perhaps apparent from get-go there or that you might experience. What is it that you’re looking for from this cocktail? Is there one ingredient that should be more prominent than others? Should it be homogenous or perfectly married together in one flavor? What does this drink look like to you on a kind of flavor and texture front?

G: Well, that is where the Caipirinha really shines, even over some others. For me, when any cocktail in the straight sour family is made, you have a really great harmony between the ingredients, but can also make distinct pieces of each. With a Caipirinha, you add texture, which is really fun. Not just in a typical shaken drink texture, I’m talking about your chewing lime pulp, you’re blocking bits of lime from going into your mouth. So it’s a little bit more of an experiential drink. But getting back to your question of what I’m looking for there. You have the tartness of the lime juice married with the sweetness of sugar. And you can use brown sugar or white sugar. I’m sure we’ll kind of touch on that. I see recipes with sugar cubes. I personally prefer granulated sugar just because you can get that nice and worked into the cocktail without destroying the limes. It’s a little bit more compact than, say, simple syrup where you’re already adding some water to the cocktail. Granulated sugar muddled with the limes gives you not only a sort of punchy sweetness and sourness, but also gives you that other little bit of gritty texture from that sugar that’s still in there. Maybe it just kind of crunches between your front teeth as you’re drinking it, at least in the early going. The cachaça is such an interesting spirit. We’ll probably need to get into it a little more in a separate question. But at points, it has some tropical fruit notes, it has some sort of grassy notes. Certain cachaças are a little bit higher proof so you have a punchiness of alcohol. But to me, when you get it just right, it tastes sort of sweet limey, almost like a grape without the skin. That’s sometimes the flavor I think of when I’m drinking cachaça. And then on top of that, the drink continues to develop as it sits in the glass. So that first sip is going to be pronounced cachaça. And that’s another thing. If you look through recipes, I think the IBA recipe says 1 and three-quarter ounces. Standard bars say it’s more like 2. I think most Brazilians would say it’s 2 and change. And then you even have Gaz Regan recipes and stuff that call for a full 3 ounces.

T: Nice, I’m in that school.

G: Yeah, you’re both English, so that makes sense. I’m going a solid 2 with maybe a little overflow. My favorite cachaça for something like that is like a Nova Fogo bar strength at 43 percent alcohol. I think it sort of bridges the right gaps there.

The Ingredients Used In The Caipirinha

T: Let’s do that dive into cachaça now. I think this is one of those ingredients where it’s not like a tequila or even a gin where everyone listening will be completely familiar with it. Maybe its production and flavor profile. Can you start by telling us how this spirit is made? Then let’s chat also about, if folks haven’t had it before, what they should be looking for when they’re buying a bottle — ABVs and things like that. First of all, how is cachaça made?

G: So cachaça is made from sugar cane juice. Some people will call it Brazilian rum or they compare it to rhum agricole. Not only because of governing bodies, this is pretty distinct in a lot of ways it’s made. One, it has to be made entirely from Brazilian sugar cane. So that’s that’s one, Two, it’s made from the juice of that sugar cane. For those that don’t know, I would say a large percentage of rum is made from molasses, the byproduct of making refined sugar that’s fermented and distilled. In this case, they’re using the fresh-pressed juice of the sugar cane fermenting that, and they will distill it in the pot still just once. That is pretty unique. So its sort of cousin would be rhum agricole, which also uses sugar cane juice. Both both have that sort of grassy, vegetal tropical fruit flavors especially in the unaged versions. But this one is with a single distillation. And within that single distillation, I was looking for a 100 percent solid answer on this because some sources say it can be up to 48 percent and others say it can be up to 54 percent. But either way, the key factor to take away from that is that that’s a very low-distillation ABV. When you’re distilling a spirit, the higher percentage of alcohol you get, the more you strip away its original flavors. When you think of a vodka that has to be distilled to over 96 percent alcoholic purity, you’re removing all the flavors of the initial materials. In cachaça, when you’re talking about 48 to 54 percent, you really maintain a lot of original cane flavor there. Then they’ll either be served entirely young or they’ll be rested. You’re talking about a silver cachaça or they call it prata — that’s the Portuguese name. Tim, maybe your Portuguese pronunciation is better than mine. You can give it a shot.

T: Maybe.

G: I love hearing Brazilian Portuguese spoken because it’s like a singing language. There’s so much cool inflection and it really moves in a lot of ways. My delivery is pretty straightforward, it kind of stays on one line. When I listen to Brazilian Portuguese speakers talk, I get kind of jealous because they go through a whole range of emotions in just about every sentence.

T: It’s a really wonderful language. And it’s interesting, too, because in the couple of years that I spent in Argentina, we had a good amount of Brazilians that I came into contact with. Sometimes, there were words and certain things I could pick up. But on the other hand, hearing people from Portugal speak Portuguese, I can’t get a word. It’s very difficult. It’s interesting. That’s why I tend towards the Argentine Spanish too. I think it’s better than the classic. But anyway, we do digress there. So we have the aged and unaged versions. But that would be the unaged silver version of this spirit.

G: Right. And like I said, either go unaged completely or rested in stainless steel where you’re not really imparting any flavor, but you’re letting it mellow out just a little bit. And then you would get into the aged. The fun thing about the aged cachaça is that different parts of Brazil sit along the rainforest and you have some wood sources that you really don’t find anywhere else. They’re actually encouraged to use native woods versus the French or American oak that so many spirits around the world are aged in. These casks made from this wood impart flavors that you just don’t experience in other spirits. They are usually very spicy and kind of exotic, which is what I would use. Those vanilla, cinnamon, and clove flavors are really pronounced. Because they don’t char the barrels, you get a lot of that flavor and its very woody and spicy flavors form pretty quickly. So they’re not aged for years and years, maybe the longest aged cachaças you’ll see are anywhere between two and four years. I think Brazil’s climate has something to do with that as well. When you have a hot and moist climate, your aging can come down a little bit.

T: Absolutely. You’re losing a lot of spirit there to the angels. You don’t want to give up too much. That’s wonderful. I find that fascinating, too, about the different types of wood. Because I think this is the one category where you’re guaranteed to find that more than any other. I know it is kind of seeping into some other aspects of spirits these days, but nowhere near as much. You mentioned the distillation proof there, but what about when we see it in bottles? Is this a category kind of like tequila, where we almost see everything on the nose of around 40 percent ABV? Or is it a bit more like a gin, where you’re seeing things all over the place on the proof there.

G: That really goes to the industrial or sort of large-production cachaças. Those are going to usually sit around 40 percent ABV. Now you’re seeing a big increase in these slightly more crafty styles of cachaças or smaller production cachaças. And those do have a pretty big range anywhere from 42 to 46 percent.

T: Nice. I hate to kind of ever be reductive about things. But is that maybe one of those surefire signifiers that if someone’s exploring their local store and they have a good selection of spirits there, there’s a lot of care going into it?

G: You never know, obviously. Due to this podcast, cachaça has an explosion in popularity in the U.S. You may see some of these giant corporations trying to put out 43 percent of all cachaça just to get Tim’s approval.

T: If we’re able to do it, that’s good. I’m happy to help do the work here.

G: Yeah. But in general, you know the brands. When I was a kid, I remember seeing this bottle of Pitu cachaça. That was the one in the woven bottle. I can’t even remember what it looks like anymore because it’s kind of taken a back seat. Obviously there’s the Leblon, which is the big brand that everyone in the U.S. knows. Novo Fogo and Nav Oir are two brands that you will see in retail and in bars that definitely are starting a conversation about cachaça is and can be in Brazil. There are a ton of other brands, but I think those are the two that people can kind of expect to see on back bars or in a decent liquor store where they can experiment a little bit.

T: Nova Fogo has done a lot of good work in terms of making inroads in the bartending community. I may be wrong here, but I believe they’re also doing good stuff when it comes to sustainability and things over there. Obviously, you mentioned the rainforests, and that’s a huge issue right now there in that country. So it’s always good to see brands giving back.

G: Yeah, it really is.

How to Make the Caipirinha

T: A second component here for this drink. Let’s go to the lime. Actually, you know what? I think this would be a good moment for us to talk about how you’re actually preparing this drink. Because I think for the lime and the sweetening agent that we’re going to talk about, it’s really good for us to have an idea of how we’re making it at the same time. This is a cocktail that’s maybe a little bit more involved than some of the other ones that we’ve discussed previously on this show.

G: Right. Again, for me, you’re usually looking at cutting your limes into eight pieces. So let’s start with the limes and then we’ll get into the glass and stuff. Persian limes are pretty much the standard in the United States, and something similar to that is pretty much the current standard in Brazil. Again, the more you get into the history, you can get into all the cultivars of limes they were having at that time. But we’re talking about right.

T: And can I hold you for a quick second? This maybe doesn’t age brilliantly, but if you don’t mind sharing what you’re paying for limes these days, because this is a topic I know that continues to be difficult. I was speaking with a bartender last night. They told me here in New York, they’re paying $150 a case right now, which is just wild.

G: Yeah, it’s varying quite a bit. But I think in Miami right now, you’re looking at like $110 or $120 a case, and I think a case is 175 count or something like that. If you’re talking about going to the grocery store, the last time I bought some for making some Caipirinhas in preparation for this conversation, they were 79 cents each. As I get older, I realize it’s not such an impactful statement to say, “I can remember when you had 10 limes for $1.00.” I also remember when gas like dip below $1 at one point in my life.

T: Yeah.

G: That was when I was like 25 years old. But yeah, they’re definitely expensive. As with everything, it seems like moving them around and getting them here with the supply chain is really affecting the price. But yeah, I think that 79 cents a lime is still worth the investment for a good Caipirinha.

T: Absolutely. So back into it, you’re cutting one single lime into eight pieces?

G: Cutting it into eight pieces. I take the ends off to reduce a tiny bit of lime skin that’s going to go into it. I personally have to muddle my Caipirinha in the glass. Obviously, lime sizes change and vary in juiciness. I’m the kind of annoying person in the grocery store that is going lime by lime. I want a smooth-skinned lime that gives to the squeeze a little bit. I want it to feel juicy in there. I don’t want a really thick white pith between the skin and the lime meat. So I take my time in selecting my limes. Generally for my recipe, the recipe that I teach people and the recipe that I make for myself, I use six of those eight pieces. Now, again, there are people that have the recipe with all eight and a little more sugar and 3 ounces of cachaça. So obviously, every cocktail is about balance. I think that the American drinker is about mentally prepared for 2 ounces of the hard stuff in a cocktail. There’s obviously many stirred-up drinks that go way above that. But in general in a mixed cocktail, we’re looking at about 2 ounces of base spirit. Anyway, it’s six lime chunks, and then my ratio is 3 teaspoons or a tablespoon of granulated sugar. A tablespoon is an easy measurement that most everybody has and it happens to work out pretty well for me. It’s sweet enough. And Miami is known for having a sweeter palate. But I think in this cocktail that’s not on the sweeter side, that’s right there where you want it to be.

T: Right down the middle.

G: That’s another difference between a Caipirinha and a Daiquiri. I know a lot of people that drink Daiquiris really dry. If you drink a really dry Caipirinha, I feel like you’re missing out on some of the harmonies of the flavors there. You’re not proving anything to anyone with just having the glass of muddle limes and cachaça.

T: I’m right there with you on that one and on the Daiquiri, too. I want the sweetness component of it. Maybe I have a sweet tooth as well.

G: There’s all kinds of little things built into the way that people drink their drinks and everybody wants to show that they know. And again, some people legitimately don’t like a sweet cocktail and I don’t either. But there’s a sense of balance that is sometimes missed if you’re doing a sour with an ounce of lime juice and a half-ounce or quarter-ounce of sweetener. I think you’re drinking an off- balance drink, and that is your prerogative. You’re welcome to do it. But don’t tell me.

T: Not the standard.

G: Yeah.

T: And for the granulated sugar, are you using white sugar and not a brown or maybe a Demerara? I find it interesting that for a lot of the cocktails we’ve discussed previously, people have gone towards that rich Demerara syrup. But I feel like that’s maybe more with aged spirits than the unaged spirits.

G: Both work here really well. I will say that at Boteco they use white sugar. Boteco is my barometer for what modern Brazilians are drinking. I don’t know. If you deep dive into the cocktail and look around in Brazil, there’s still, I would say, a pretty good split on light brown sugar, like a sugar in the raw. Part of that reasoning, when I’ve asked around, is that they like the sturdier crystals for being abrasive on the lime peel and stuff like that. Again that tiny bit of molasses and richness is a nice flavor. You will see both being served in Brazil for sure. For my spec, I use a granulated white sugar just because I like the cleanness that really just brightens up the lime and brightens up the cachaça. You’re going to try and get that nice mix between the lime meat and the lime peel, and then you’re going to muddle it in a way that you’re just smashing down and splashing the juice out. You’re selecting where your model is going on the corner of a wedge to press down, express the juice and get a little twist so that getting those oils out without just demolishing the lime. I kind of know when I’m done muddling because it has become one thing. The sugar is just a little bit past the paste and it’s almost into a syrup. There’s still a little bit of sugar that’s on the edges of the glass floating around for those little crunchies I’m looking for later. And then the limes have been fully expressed of juice. That’s when you’re ready to add your ice and cachaça.

T: Amazing. Before we do continue with this drink, just hearing you talk about that makes me wonder if muddling is becoming a bit of a lost art form in bartending. Just because, again, those drinks that we’ve mentioned maybe aren’t as popular today as they once were. But hearing you speak about that intention when it comes to the muddling, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speaking about that before.

G: Well, I say it is a pretty lost art. Again, more and more in cocktail bars. When I was coming up in bartending, the Mojito was popular before that. But that was kind of the drink that was a pain in the ass for people to make before craft cocktail bars were really very popular. It would be like, “Oh, this guy’s ordering rounds of Mojitos. Oh, my God.” But at that point, you still muddled them. But then, of course, everybody just went into cocktails that all took five or six steps. You’re muddling a lot of things and you were reaching for bottles from the back bar that you didn’t really have to get and stuff. We’ve kind of come full circle again because we were training some younger bartenders and they were talking about Mojitos being a pain in the ass. We teach a churned Mojito, so you have to semi-build it in glass with the ice and it’s short of a swizzle. Anyway, point being, they were like, “Oh, what a pain in the ass.” Because they’re so used to everything being made back of house and all this prep being done in advance and having stations that weren’t just sort of put together from closed-down restaurants and old barware that the owner would buy. When we were coming up in cocktail bars, they would just buy from like restaurant auctions. You’d have this fully mismatched bar equipment and now they have a station that has the cockpit fully built in. Everything is much more quick and streamlined, which is great. But it’s just funny to see a bartender that has a book of 200 cocktails in their brain but thinks it’s kind of a pain in the ass to make a Mojito.

T: It’s bringing back this lost art form. And I wonder, too, whether this reaction to this Espresso Martini craze and this style of drink is a return to this style of drink. Because — and no pun intended here — it’s refreshing to be muddling a drink rather than shaking up 50 Espresso Martinis. I don’t know. Maybe we’ll see.

G: I think we’re 10 years out from everybody muddling everything in a tin again.

T: You’re laying it down there on record today. I like it.

G: This is the cycle that things go through, and they’ll have to rediscover the beauty of fresh produce and how to work with it and stuff. First it was the culinary, and now I see there’s this sort of science. In Europe, you’re seeing so much of this rotovap and you have this cocktail that has 15 to 20 ingredients, but it comes to you as a beautiful opaque drink. What’s the word?

T: Clarified?

G: Yeah, clarified, whatever. I can’t remember if opaque means you can’t see through it or you can.

T: It’s the middle one. You can semi see through it.

G: OK. Well anyway, you can completely see through these, but they’ll have a nice pink hue and they’re on a clear cube and they’re in a tall glass. Now we have products. My partner and I are working with a group to make a product called Sour AF, which is like an acid blend for cocktail bartenders and home bartenders. And the application is with volume and batching and extending lime juice. Now that limes cost $150 bucks the case, people might want to experiment with sort of fun clarified cocktails but don’t have those tools in their bar. The point is, when those types of things take over, a generation of bartenders just behind that will be like, “What’s this?” I went to a bartender and was like, “Hey, do you have a hand press? You know, like an elbow.” The frickin little thing that squeezes a fresh lime. I just want to press the juice and help them out so they will discover these things and be like, “Oh my God, it’s so great.” And they won’t wear suspenders and mustaches. They’ll wear ’90s color-block gear.

T: Yeah, it’s wonderful, isn’t it? It’s fascinating how these tides of fashion and everything comes back. Speaking of coming back, I’ve taken us too far off. Let’s bring us back to the drink. You have this wonderful paste formed in the glass. I’m looking at it right now in my mind, and I’m going, “What’s happening next?”

G: OK, we’re adding ice.

T: So the cachaça is in there, too?

G: No, I like to add my ice. Only because if I add the cachaça and then I dump the ice, you get some splashing and you might have some issues. So I add the ice on top to kind of hold things where they may be.

T: Nice intentions.

G: This is all happening in an Old Fashioned glass with a 10- to 12-ounce range. Ice is another thing that people argue about. My good friend is really big on shaking this with a little bit of Kold- Draft or cube ice and then topping it with a bunch of crushed ice. Which looks great, but I’ll go where I’m going with it and tell you why I like it. I am going to be using decent ice. Because it reminds me of these beach Caipirinhas. If I could get really solid bag ice like you’re getting it home, the ready ice rounded ones with a little hole in the middle, that would be ideal. It’s solid ice, not crunchy ice. We’ll take Kold-Draft Hoshizaki. But basically cube ice is what’s important. It doesn’t even need to be of the same quality that we’re using in great cocktail bars, the one-and-a-quarter- inch cube or something, but just a solid cube of ice. You can fill the glass up with that and then you’re going to pour in your 2 ounces of cachaça. In this case, I’m looking at an unaged cachaça, ideally with a bit of flavor to it. This is no plug for them, but I’m a big fan of the Nova Fogo Bar Strength just because it has that little extra punch. Here’s my thing that I like to do. I like to take that Collins glass and grab the small tin. So if you’re talking about a two-piece metal on metal tin shaker, I like to take the small tin that you normally build in and cover the top of the rocks glass and give it a little shake with the rocks glass kind of facing out behind you. It’s kind of like sealing the tin. That might be breaking some rules.

T: Hey, man, break the rules.

G: I’m here to break the rules. Because the result that I’m after is that I want to chill it really well. I want to incorporate it really well. I want to add a little bit of air, but not much. So I don’t want a big room for it to shake around and get aerated, which you do want in a lot of cocktails. I don’t want to even really give it that much dilution. This is really mostly about incorporation and incorporating and chilling, again, trying to get any of those little pockets of sugar that might have gone unmuddled or sort of dissolved. Then I’m going to just dirty dump the whole thing back into that same rocks glass. If you’ve created a little bit of room, you’d add maybe one or two more ice cubes to give you a nice wash line. You don’t need a ton of space there. You want to be kind of coming up to the top of the glass and you want to leave in the chunks of lime, because part of the experience is twofold. One, it is going to change over time and the lime is going to keep producing the nice tartness and bitterness as the drink rolls on. I can only imagine Caipirinhas in a warm climate. I know they’re being drunk all around the world, but all of my Caipirinha experience is on a beach or around a pool or in a hotel that’s covering you from 90-degree heat outside. So as that ice melts, you’re going to keep getting some interaction from the lime. And two, as a guy who spends time out drinking and it’s a very social activity for me, there’s just something really fun about everyone getting a lime pulp surprise. You get it to have a little nibble of lime as you drink and it pops, so you get that flavor. It’s a magical experience.

T: Have I missed this? What about those two final pieces of the eight limes?

G: You basically have to drink three Caipirinhas to get an equal amount of lime.

T: OK, I’m sold.

G: We’ll reserve them for another use.

T: That’s cool. I like it. And you know what I love? You mentioned that your technique there may be a little bit unconventional. Those are always the examples that I enjoy most on this show, when people come with their own technique and like I said a ton of times, intention rather than just the IBA method or the textbook method. But having a reason and doing it yourself. I want to be at a bar where I see someone shaking a rocks glass inside the Boston tin there. That’s wonderful. If I’m sitting at the bar and I see that happening, I’m going, “This is wild. It’s unconventional. I’m all in. I love it.”

G: Right. Well, you have to look like you know what you’re doing. Are you doing it on purpose for it to work?

T: I don’t want to be there when someone’s doing it for the first time ever.

G: You don’t want to be. If they put it in the big tin, then you’re just looking at broken glass. You want that short shake to keep any bad things from happening.

T: That’s awesome. What about garnish there? And also, is this a straw drink or is this not a straw drink? I’m worried about the pulp.

G: Yes: no straws, no garnish.

T: No straws. No garnish.

G: That’s one of those things where I feel like there is some debate among bartenders and even guests. Do you garnish a Daiquiri or that other very simple sour? It’s hard for me not to want to put a lime wheel on it, but there’s plenty of bartenders that say, “No garnish on a Daiquiri etc., etc.” But I don’t know a single bartender that garnishes the classic Caipirinha with anything other than just a napkin to give it to you. People who aren’t thinking might put straws in it. I could see how the straw could be prescribed because I guess you can get some of those nice little bits off the bottom of the glass that way sooner and stuff like that. But for me, straw on request only.

T: Yeah. Good for the environment, too.

G: I guess I’m like that in general. If I wore lipstick or something, I might feel more sympathetic to it or something. But in general, short drinks in my mind need no straws. But again, some people would disagree.

T: Awesome. So I think we’ve covered all of the typical aspects of the drink that we would: the glassware, the build, the garnish, no garnish. Any final thoughts here on the Caipirinha, on this cocktail or anything that we’ve already discovered today or haven’t?

How to Make a Fruit Caipirinha

G: Well, I was going to say we would be remiss to not discuss the fruit Caipirinha. I mean, we kind of touched on it. It’s a major part of Brazilian drinking culture and I think that almost anywhere where they’re serving a lot of Caipirinhas they are muddling with fruit or using liqueurs and stuff like that. I wanted to sort of mention that. One, you really can’t go wrong throwing the fruit of your choice in there. I mean, the most popular are strawberry and passion fruit, I’ve seen everything.

T: Is anyone doing it pineapple?

G: Oh, how can I forget pineapple? Yes, definitely pineapple. My favorite of those is one that’s made with Chinola passion fruit liqueur.

T: Nice.

G: Yeah.

T: I just tried it for the first time recently, and I’m a fan. It’s delicious.

G: Right? It’s a passion fruit liqueur made in the Dominican Republic from an Old World-style liqueur, if you will. So they actually use the passion fruit pulp. It’s not clear, whatever that word is. It’s not opaque. You can’t see through it. I might be the only person putting Caipirinhas on menus, but we got a chance to do the menu for the Time Out Market in Miami. We were doing the cachaça, Chinola, passion fruit liqueur, like a key lime and vanilla sort of thing, where you basically mix the oleo sacrum? We used some chunks of key lime and vanilla and sugar. In that case, I had to break a cardinal rule of my classic Caipirinha where we did use the syrup. But then I muddled it on fresh limes. Some exceptions need to be made to have a cocktail that people can make quickly and get out to guests.

T: I think that’s a great point. The rules are guidelines, essentially. If there’s a reason to break them or stray from the path, let’s do it. And I think that’s a great point, though, this cocktail being that kind of template. But also you can build upon it with those other fruits. Maybe you got a couple of raspberries you need to use up or whatever. Get it in the Caipirinha. Add a little bit of fruit to it. It’s wonderful.

G: Yeah.

Getting To Know Gui Jaroschy

T: Amazing. Let’s now head into the final part of the show here and let’s get to know you, yourself, more as a drinker and as a bartender.

G: Cool. That sounds fun.

T: Awesome. Kicking it off as is custom with question No. 1: What style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?

G: Right now, I feel like agave spirits are having a major moment. Like many categories, you really taste with certain brands that place and process. We’re having a lot of fun with agave spirits again. My two favorite categories are rum and Scotch, and I feel like I’ve heard that from a few people on the podcast before. But I find that consumers are a little less open to some exploration in those categories, whereas they’re very open to trying great agave spirits right now. In our bars, you’ll see a wide range of agave from both mainstream to the more esoteric.

T: Nice. I mentioned the Espresso Martini earlier, but I think tequila, too. Even if I’m speaking with folks that maybe aren’t so concerned with the bar industry or aren’t taken by the cocktail world, those are two things that everyone seems to be talking about these days. So I think that’s smart and also speaks to different markets, too, I guess.

G: Well, we did a consulting project in Mexico not long ago. And the Carajillo, which is essentially tequila and Licor 43 Espresso Martini, is having a major moment. It’s the most called for drink, I think, of any I’ve ever seen. Having seen the Moscow Mule or the Mojito, or the Old Fashioned have these incredible moments, I have never seen half of the bar have Carajillo.

T: That’s wild. I need to look into that and maybe write that trend piece. Question No. 2: Which ingredient or two is the most undervalued, in your opinion, in a bartender’s arsenal?

G: I guess it sort of depends. But ingredient-wise, I think that the fortified wine segment is least utilized in a great way. There’s always one or two that are really popular among bartenders because the brands have some marketing effort. When people first try Carpano and they’ve only had one of the other big ones that don’t have quite as much character or sweetness or whatever, they really get into one of those. But just in general, I’ve always been a fan of making cobbler-style cocktails or making riffs on Manhattans with different fortified wines and stuff like that. I feel like most current bartenders just don’t have a huge breadth of knowledge of those fortified wines. There’s just so many of them out there and there’s so many cool things you can do with them. But I just see a very small handful used at any given time.

T: The safe ones. And if you were going to say tool, I’m guessing you’re going muddler?

G: It’s not as valuable right now.

T: Ten years time, folks, buy stocks in muddlers now. In 10 years time, you’re going to be raking in. Question No. 3 here: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?

G: Well, that’s another good question. Many years ago, I did a consulting project for Stephen Starr and he is surprisingly hands-on with his openings and projects. Maybe that was because it was one of his first big ones in Miami. He wanted to know what we were doing with our classics. He really liked the cocktail menu that we made, but he wanted to know what our sort of book was for the classic cocktails when people ordered them. So he wanted to try our Martini spec. This is 2015, so I’m like five years into real craft bartending. I made him a stirred Martini, a couple dashes of bitters, a little vermouth than maybe a man like Stephen Star would like. He just kind of got into saying, “Oh, me and Bobby De Niro, we like shaken Martinis. And a lot of my friends, we like shaken Martinis.” I left that conversation a little deflated. Well, everything I read and all the people around me say that they have to be stirred. You need the bitters and whatever. If the guy who, I guess a year or two later won a lifetime achievement award with James Beard, says he likes it this way, then why don’t you learn what they like about it and start making it that way? Not that it has to become your standard piece. But just realize that you’re going to learn something to then take liberties. I do that a lot in the way that I make drinks and I don’t just say this now. I worked behind bars and as a server in restaurants for 15, 16, 17 years or something like that. 18 years? I’ve always really, really believed that you give the guest what they want. Not just because you’re sort of beholden to, but because that’s what you’re there for, is to show people a good time and make something special for them. That’s not one piece of advice, but it really illustrated a point from a very important person. You learn the rules, do that thing, but ultimately make something that people really like and it goes a lot further.

T: Hey, I love it. And I think that’s so important. You mention that there, I am not, per se, a shaken Martini drinker myself. But I don’t know that I’ve ever made a shaken Martini at home. I’m thinking, if Bob De Niro’s doing it, I’m going to do that tonight. But you know what? I’m going to try and make a good one. Or I’m going to see, like you say, why that’s maybe not something you should be doing. That inspired me for this evening. Penultimate question now: If you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?

G: OK, so that would be two. Boadas bar in Barcelona is one of my favorite bars of all time. I’ve never had a bad cocktail there. Are you familiar with it?

T: I’m not familiar with it.

G: It’s having a bit of a moment now, too. It just won Legend of the List or one of those 50 best.

T: Nice.

G: Julio Cabrera is kind of a legendary Miami-Cuban bartender. I went on my honeymoon to London and Barcelona and he highly recommended the bar. It’s in Las Ramblas, which is kind of a touristy area. It’s kind of like Ocean Drive in Miami. It doesn’t have a reputation for having the best stuff. It’s been open since the ’20s or something like that. It’s a lot of older guys wearing beat-up tuxedos and they throw everything rather than stir it. And you get a little bowl of crappy snack mix and you get a little bright red cherry in your cocktail. To me, it was the missing link of the two kinds of bars I love the most, a dive bar and a great cocktail bar. They can make every great classic cocktail. They basically kept the throwing technique alive when it was kind of forgotten around the world. They throw all of their traditionally stirred drinks and I really don’t think they jigger anything, and they get the perfect wash line every time. It just shows that they’ve been making cocktails for a very long time. I was in Barcelona for six nights and I went there all six nights to have at least one cocktail.

T: Wow. So that was one of two.

G: Oh, the second one is the G&S Lounge in Austin, which is where I’m from. It’s the ultimate dive bar. It’s video games, pool tables, free popcorn, a good jukebox of Texas classic music and a surly bartender who used to walk me home from school and stuff like that. His dad bought the building many years ago and he basically has been the only bartender and proprietor of that bar for my entire life.

T: That’s awesome.

G: Yeah.

T: Fantastic. Love a great dive bar myself here. Haven’t visited that one yet. I’ll need to add it to the list next time I’m in Austin. Who knows when that will be? Final question for you today: If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?

G: Like I said, my favorite cocktail is Manhattan. If I was at my last bar in my life and maybe it was my last cocktail, I would say the Boadas Manhattan would be a perfect way to close the show. I guess we can close the show that way. I would say a beautiful Manhattan made in a way that was just perfect would be my last cocktail.

T: Wonderful. A nice way to go. I ask that question every single week, and I’m starting to feel like now I hope I do get the opportunity to go out with a drink in hand. Who knows?

G: I mean, we could only be so lucky, right?

T: Well, thanks again so much for joining us today. I got to go and try out this shaken technique. It’s wonderful. It’s standing out in my head right now. Here’s hoping I can afford the limes.

G: Yeah. Get out quickly. Get those limes and enjoy a shotgun shaken Caipirinha on me.

T: Thank you very much. Thanks again for joining us now.

G: Thank you, Tim. It’s been a lot of fun. Appreciate it.

T: Awesome.

If you enjoy listening to the show anywhere near as much as we enjoy making it, go ahead and hit subscribe, and please leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts — whether that’s Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher. And please tell your friends.

Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.