I was traveling from the remote town of Tres Coraςoes in the state of Minas Gerais to attend a wedding in Santiago de Chile, and decided to stop over in Rio to see what all the fuss was about.
And were there beautiful white sand beaches? Yes. Was there a party atmosphere tempered by a laid back mellowness? Yes. Was there natural splendor juxtaposed with manmade beauty? Yes. And were there scores of hot, topless Brazilian women strolling the beaches while wearing nothing but thong bikinis? Hell, yes!
But for all its beauty and charm, Rio has the reputation of being one of the most violent and deadly cities in the world.
When I went to Copacabana, crossing from my hotel over the distinctive black and cream mosaic sidewalks known as pedra portuguesa and narrowly avoiding the friendly young pimp that was omnipresent outside my hotel, I staked out a place on the beach near a volleyball net and sought out refreshment. Nearby, there was a kiosk run by an old woman who was peddling caipirinhas.
As she prepared my first caipirinha, muddling the sugar and lime and measuring out the cachaςa, she chatted with me (as much as my tortured Portuguese would allow), waxing poetic on all the beauty that Rio and Brazil have to offer, but peppering her dialogue with very stern warnings that I was not to venture out alone at night. She illustrated the danger by showing me her battle wounds: the tiny scar on her earlobe, where an earring was torn from its place by someone riding by on a bike… the jagged cleft on her side where she was knifed for a purse containing a mere pittance… a hack mark on her arm, for no apparent reason.
It was sad, and a little frightening.
But after three caipirinhas and some topless thong-wearing girls’ beach volleyball, none of it seemed much to matter.
And here is how to make your own caipirinhas:
- 2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
- 1 Lime (cut into wedges)
- 2½ Ounces Cachaςa
Muddle the sugar into the lime wedges in the bottom of a sturdy old-fashioned glass.
Fill the glass with ice. (Cubes or crushed.)
Pour cachaςa over the ice and mix well. (I like to withhold some of the lime from the muddler and squeeze the juice on top.)
Instead of Cachaςa, use:
- Vodka. It’s a Caipiroska.
- Rum. It’s a Caipirissima.
- Sake. It’s a Caipisake.
Other popular variations include replacing the lime with tangerine, maracujá (passion fruit), star fruit, or any combination of lime and/or other tropical fruits.
Also, try the Spanish version, which uses brown sugar in place of granulated sugar.
And don’t forget the topless thong-wearing beach volleyballers. Sure, it’s not 100% necessary, but it can’t hurt!