When you think about a holiday in Rio de Janeiro, picturing yourself sipping a refreshing caipirinha while sitting in a kiosko on Copacabana beach is probably as iconic as it can get. Luckily, the ‘marvellous city’ brims with opportunities to enjoy life under the sun and make your dreams come true.
‘Cariocas’ ―as Rio de Janeiro locals are called― have a relaxed, joyful and friendly way of being which is reflected on their everyday life. Between samba, football, feijoada and wonderful beaches, the country’s most beloved alcohol drink has also a very special place.
Feeling inspired for a trip to Brazil? Check out our Brazil tours! And for an authentic Rio experience, read below to learn about caipirinhas and take notes of our picks for the best in the city.
All about the authentic caipirinha…and it’s variations
The original version of Brazil’s national cocktail is a mix of three ingredients: crushed limes (green lemon), sugar and cachaça (a distilled liquor made from fermented sugar-cane). Limes are cut in quarters, leaving the top, bottom and center aside, as they have a bitter taste. Then sugar is added and muddled with the limes, helping to balance the citric flavors. Finally, it’s time to add cachaça and crushed ice to complete the drink. A good Caipirinha should taste sweet, spicy and fruity, all at the same time. It’s very refreshing but it also has a high percentage of alcohol (and that’s something to keep in mind!).
Types of cachaça
The quality of the ingredients is key to preparing a superb caipirinha and can make all the difference. As it happens with Mexican tequila, there are different types of cachaças: the white or traditional ―which has a transparent color and it’s often used for caipirinhas― and the gold or aged cachaça, which is stored in wooden barrels and can be labeled as ‘premium’ (if it’s been aged for one year) or ‘extra premium’ (if it’s been aged for at least three years). Another important distiction is between industrial and artisanal cachaças. The artisanals boast more complexity on their flavor and aromas, as a result of a completely manual process, which doesn’t include chemicals and entails aging in wood barrels. Paraty ―a small colonial town a few kilometers away from Rio and one of the most beautiful coastal cities in Brazil― is well-known for its artisanal cachaça distilleries.
Other variations of caipirinhas include fruits like red fruits, passion fruit, pineapple or kiwi. And for those who want something different, vodka can be used instead of cachaça to make a ‘caipivodka’ or ‘caipiroska’.
Where to drink caipirinhas in Rio de Janeiro
Nestled between the sea and the mountain hills, Rio de Janeiro is home to impressive urban landscapes. Whether you’re enjoying the vibrant nightlife or sunny days on the beach, having a drink always seems like the right thing to do. Get a flair of the best Carioca flair and visit our recommended spots to sip a couple of caipirinhas:
Academia de Cachaça
The name, Academia de Cachaça, says it all. This bar in Leblon neighborhood is a tribute to the Brazilian national spirit, boasting more than 100 different types of Cachaça from all the corners of the country. You can have it pure, in a traditional caipirinha or try some of the many fruity combinations available. With more than 20 years of history, this place is a classic and a reference in Rio’s gastronomic scene. Try their feijoada too, it’s a big highlight in town.
Kiosque do Português
Kiosque do Português started as a kiosque on Leblon beach and soon became a great hit. In 2012, the owners ―a father and son― opened a joint close to the scenic Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and have been making some of the most celebrated caipirinhas in Rio ever since. The traditional caipirinha here is highly recommended. However, you shouldn’t miss their own creative variations: tangerine with ginger, strawberry, lemon and mint, are just some of their popular blends. They also created a bi-color caipirinha, with pineapple and red fruits separated by a slice of lemon.
‘Aprazivel’ means ‘pleasant’ and that’s just the kind of experience you can expect from this restaurant that has one of the most beautiful views of the city. Set in an outstanding location, up on the hill of Santa Teresa ―Rio’s most artistic neighborhood, often regarded as the Carioca Montmartre― Aprazivel combines a bohemian and rustic atmosphere, with tropical cuisine and top-notch caipirinhas. Besides, they use organic products from sustainable farming. As for the caipis, you may want to try their caipimentha (it has mint and pineapple). A place to visit on a special occasion (it’s not cheap), with a previous reservations.
Rei do Limão Caipirinha
This bar is close to one of Rio’s most touristic attractions, the beginning of the Escadaria Selaron ―a series of steps that go from Lapa neighborhood to the hill of Santa Teresa―. Nestled at the heart of Lapa’s most buzzing area, Rei do Limão Caipirinha is the ideal place to stop by if you are enjoying music and nightlife. Tasty and fresh caipirinhas are served in plastic cups, so you can continue partying on the street, where most of the fun goes on.
The word ‘Boteco’ refers to a pub, where alcohol drinks are poured and people gather to share a good time. They are a very important part of the Brazilian culture and you may find many of them on the corners across the city. In this case, Boteco Belmonte is not a single place, but one of the most important chains of gastro-pubs in Brazil. An authentic spot to try typical Brazilian dishes: a great option if you want to spend the night as a local. The caipirinhas in Belmont stick to the traditional recipe and are considered among the best in the city.