THE COMPLICIT CONSPIRACY OF ALCOHOL

What do these cartoons have in common?

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They all send a message that drinking is fun, actually not just fun, needed to cope with today’s world. The message is so prevalent, so strongly shared in social media, on TV, in movies and in our social lives that we barely take notice.  We barely stop to think that something might be wrong with it.

This is not an easy post to write, as it feels like swimming against a strong current. Let me start with my own experience on the subject. My college years were all alcohol-free and the friends I hung out at the time with were not interested in drinking. Then I started dating the man who became my first husband. He absolutely loved wine and other libations. I tried my first glass of wine around age 24; I could take it or leave it as far as taste was concerned, but I embraced the practice for the fun aspects that came with it. Drinking became a part of my social life and I never worried about it.  Except for having to deal with the eventual drunk friend or relative, but they ended up more as harmless annoyances, nothing I was overly concerned with.  Plus, “they” were not “me”, so all was fine in my own Private Idaho.

In the past few years, I noticed that my tolerance for alcohol started to sharply decrease. Whereas in the past I could indulge in a mixed drink before dinner, then a glass or two of wine with my meal, and still have a normal morning next day, as I got older doing the same caused a hangover that pretty much ruined my next day.  Two glasses of wine with dinner became the maximum I can drink, but sometimes even that makes me a bit unwell. You might say “… so what? Stick with one glass and don’t worry about it.”  But, the realization of how harmful just a little more might be for my body got me thinking. Could drinking – even at a moderate level – be doing me more harm than good?  How could I be sure? Shouldn’t I listen to the signs my body kept sending me?  I also started to question my reasons for drinking. I decided to go on a personal experiment and quit drinking for a couple of months. While doing so it became evident the power of the alcohol industry. I read a lot on the subject, from the benefits of drinking (heavily shared around in social media) to its negative side-effects (barely mentioned in those venues), and about the advertising strategies and profits of the alcohol industry.  And now here I am to share my thoughts.

I don’t intend to turn myself or anyone else into a teetotaler. Or to be judgmental about those who drink a little or a lot. I simply hope that we can all be more attentive to – and perhaps take a stance against –  the constant bombardment of alcohol advertising, which, by the way, now heavily targets women.  It portrays alcohol as a harmless substance, supposed to make your life fun and sophisticated. It is supposed to make you tolerate the stresses of your day, and  surf more smoothly through social interactions, especially if they feel awkward to start with.  The alcohol industry clearly prefers to place the burden of any negative effect of drinking on the shoulders of the “bad drinkers.” They, the pitiful alcoholics. We all subscribe to this view, by the way. That is neither fair nor accurate. In reality, the problems reside on the substance itself.  Alcohol is a toxin that your body immediately needs to  degrade once you ingest it. No matter how little you drink, your liver works extra to deal with it. Alcohol is addictive (not just for alcoholics), and as far as its danger ranking for society, it is worse than heroine and other illicit drugs (on a scale of 100, alcohol ranks 72, whereas heroine ranks  55 and crack 54, see this article).  In reality, moderate drinking, the kind that advocates portray as having positive effects on the cardiovascular system, is not what many drinkers are doing, particularly us women. Keep in mind that for women, moderate drinking is considered a maximum of 5 ounces of wine per day and even such low-level is a matter of debate. Anything more and the risks outweigh the benefits. Women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, and that is not simply an effect of body mass.  Often couples (yours truly included) will happily share  a bottle of wine with their dinner in the name of pleasure and supposed health benefits. We keep doing it, while  mentally assembling all the arguments that make it sound like a risk-free thing.  And the arguments seem to make sense. Come to think of it, the cartoons and funny jokes finally place women as equals with men on the drinking stage. Wow, that is some sociological victory! 😉

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I know that many people will read my post and react against it, claiming “I don’t have/see a problem.” True, probably you don’t.  But, our society does. Under age drinking is another serious problem made harder to deal with due to the influence of social media that enables advertisement by peers without any regulation (reviewed here). So, yes, maybe you are not affected directly by it. But someone you love might be. Maybe a son or a daughter, who at some point will be exposed to the Siren’s Song of the alcohol industry, that actually relies on the very existence of alcoholics for most of their profit.  Kids will go to college, turn 21, and in the US they will encounter the tradition of binge drinking. Maybe your own kids won’t partake, but they may suffer the consequences of being around those who do. No matter our own personal experience, our control and confidence in our own judgement, we should not close our eyes to the careless and irresponsible advertisement of drinking that happens today.  Not only direct, but also indirect advertisements.  I suggest you pay close attention to sitcoms, TV shows in general, and once you do, you will be shocked by the widespread underlying message of drinking as equal to living the good life. Today’s alcohol industry is exactly like the cigarette industry decades ago. We fought against them to stop false advertising, to stop selling the association of smoking with a great time. Why do we grant the alcohol industry a free pass to lie to us? Why do we help their cause by sharing cute jokes and spreading articles that reinforce the fun but look away when scientific data offer a different perspective?

The “responsible drinking” lie. Did you know that alcoholics account for 47% of the profits of alcohol sales? Just think about that for a second. The consequence of this fact is that the industry has no interest in moderate drinking, or in articles that warn about the dangers of drinking. Instead, their goal is to make sure that the proportion of heavy drinkers stays at the current level or even grows to protect their profits.  Like everything else, it’s all about the money.  They completely disregard a few annoying facts like: alcohol has been linked to about 200 illnesses  (World Health Organization, 2014); alcohol is associated with increased risk for cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx (organs that alcohol directly contacts), liver, and breast  (National Cancer Institute). Some individuals become addicted to alcohol from the first taste, for reasons not well understood, probably genetics is involved (I could not find precise statistics about it). That’ should be enough to give us all a pause. What if that person is someone you deeply care about? A nephew, a niece, a sibling. Drinking does not make problems go away or life easier. It does not make us happier or more fun and interesting in conversations.  However, most people believe that it does (I am not excluding myself, it is a very ingrained belief), and the alcohol industry is more than willing to feed those beliefs. Why wouldn’t they? It keeps their sales up.

quoteSo, what’s my point? My main message is that alcohol demands more attention and respect for what it really is:  a toxin with addictive properties.  Approach it with the caution it deserves. Consider real instead of pseudo-moderation. Talk to your kids about it in those terms. Be aware of the false aura behind it,  even if you think you are totally immune to it.  You may want to look into the role that drinking has in your own life.  Does it help you deal with stress …  is that the way you’d like your kids to face stress too?  Do you need it to have fun socially … is that the way you’d like your kids to approach it too?  We must acknowledge and deal with the darker side of drinking in honest terms.  I’ve had my share of encounters with people I admire, respect and love, but noticed with some sadness that they turn into different versions of themselves when drinking.  Sometimes they become overly argumentative, aggressive or depressed, only because they drank over a certain threshold.  Alcohol-induced happiness can be fleeting. And what comes after ranges from mildly annoying to sad, to ugly, all the way up to dangerous. Drinking and driving is one example, as are arguments, fights, black outs, the list is long, you get the picture. I once said things I regretted, because wine made me lose some self-control. It involved politics and interactions with a conservative couple. Even today, 15 years later, I don’t like to remember that evening. But still, that episode made me feel the dark side beneath my own skin.

Now back to my personal experiment. For starters, t shocked me how much better I felt once I stopped having alcohol with dinner, particularly considering that I didn’t drink that much and not even every evening.  Gone was a persistent, low-level headache that forced me to take a couple of aspirins a few times a week.  Gone was waking up in the morning with bags and puffiness under my eyes, and a sort of pale complexion. Lastly, I have renewed energy late at night, and sleep better too. Those are nice, unexpected bonuses.  Because I get  up early, I thought that being exhausted by 10 pm was normal.  Feeling overall quite a bit better makes it trickier to justify going back to drinking. For the time being I am surfing through these new waters, with a “naked” mind.  Honestly, I don’t know what I will do in the long run. I believe in moderation for everything, so quitting alcohol forever seems too drastic and not at all what I had in mind when I started my “experiment.”  The bottom line is, I am conflicted and struggling to find my own balance. That’s all I can say for now. So, if you wanted all the answers, I am sorry to disappoint you, I don’t have them. Not yet, that is…

But I am not at all conflicted about my views on the alcohol industry and the need to fight against it. All alcohol bottles should come with better warning labels, just as cigarettes now do, more than “Alcohol…may cause health problems.”  The health warnings should be as bold and restrictive as they are for cigarettes. The more aware we become, the less alcohol will harm us as a society.

To close this post, I will share two links. One takes you to a book that is sure to help people struggling with alcoholism or who have a hard time moderating their consumption.  It is called, This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace.  Even if you drink in moderation, the book is worth reading. The second link takes you to an article in The Washington Post, that I read when I was about 75% done writing this post. I was pleasantly surprised to see my views confirmed by others much more qualified than me to talk about the subject. I suggest you at least watch the short video included in the article, pretty interesting, she is quite articulate.

And just to end on a happier note, here is a pretty festive drink. It has a negligible amount of alcohol with the drops of bitters, but they add a nice kick to the taste. Do not omit them.

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CRANBERRY BLISS: Place a few glass cubes inside a tall glass. Add 1/4 of pure cranberry juice, 5 drops of bitters (any kind you like, Angostura for instance), fill the glass with 3/4 sparkling water. Drink and enjoy!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

THREE YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

SIX YEARS AGO: Gougeres

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

 

 

SHRUBS: A FUN ALTERNATIVE TO ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

Have you heard about shrubs? They are quite fashionable these days, which could turn me off, a bit of a rebel that sometimes I am, but then again I was too curious to completely ignore them. Plus, I am quite fond of vinegar and acidic goodies in general. I first heard about shrubs through Fer’s blog Chucrute com Salsicha. Her style of cooking  is quite similar to ours, so when she started raving about shrubs, I paid attention. But it took me more than a year to finally try one. I am a beginner still, trying flavor combinations, levels of acidity and sweetness, but it is so much fun, I hope you consider playing with this type of drink. Plus, if you or someone you entertain prefers to stick to non-alcoholic beverages, shrubs are perfect. Say goodbye to boring sodas, or the same old same old sparkling water with a twist of lemon, and embrace the amazing variety of the world of shrubs.

Shrubs are a mixture of fruit or vegetables with alcohol and/or vinegar. They originated in England in the 15th century, in versions used for medicinal purposes and generally containing some type of alcohol. A couple of hundred years later, the practice of using vinegar to preserve fruits arrived in the Americas, and by the 19th century, shrubs were quite widespread. Fruits such as berries were mixed with vinegar, left to infuse for days or even weeks. The liquid was then strained, sweetened and used as a syrup to make drinks, both alcoholic or not. Nowadays, you can find countless recipes around, even whole books written on the subject, such as this one, which I own.  I share first my all-time favorite, which happens to be the simplest one to prepare. Then I offer two more with a totally different flavor profile.  Shrubs last for a long time in the fridge, they are festive, fresh, and contrary to alcoholic beverages, there’s absolutely nothing to fear. No need for designated drivers, no risk of hangovers, no inconvenient behavior, such as dancing naked over the table while guests are trying to concentrate on dessert. Unless you really feel like it, of course. But keep in mind you won’t be able to blame the drink!

cucumber-shrub-drink

CUCUMBER-MINT SHRUB
(adapted from Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs)

2 large cucumbers
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1/3  cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add cucumbers and mint leaves to blender. Blend until pureed.

Press puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add cucumber juice, both vinegars, sugar, and kosher salt to a jar or bottle. Shake very well to combine and refrigerate.

To drink, pour some over ice cubes, and complete tall glass with carbonated water. Mix and enjoy. If needed, add a little more sugar (I did not).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: This is my favorite shrub so far. Love it, love it, love it!  I have a hard time sticking with only two glasses with my dinner, because it goes well with all sorts of main dishes. I know, the color is a bit odd, although I was pleased by how it matched my manicure of that particular week… As you know, I am easily amused. Next time I will add lemon zest and a touch of lemon juice in place of the mint. Just for fun.

Moving on, this second shrub is a very fruity and floral option, with a shockingly gorgeous color…

strawberry-shrub

RASPBERRY STRAWBERRY & ROSE SHRUB
(inspired by The Kitchen McCabe)

1 + 1/2  cups raspberries
1/2 cup water
1 + 1/2  cups strawberries, quartered
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon rose-water (see comments)

Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan, along with ½ cup of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to completely dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let cool completely. Pour mixture into a blender, along with the raspberries, honey, rose-water and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids. Place the syrup in a container and refrigerate for several days, up to a week.  The syrup can also be used right away.

Simply pour a small amount on a tall glass over ice cubes, and top with carbonated water.  Adjust sweetness if needed, add a sprig of mint if you’d like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: My only issue with this shrub is the amount of rose-water. I did not even use the full tablespoon and found it to be overpowering. I suggest one teaspoon max, see how you feel about it, if you like a more perfumed drink, add 1/2 teaspoon more to the bottle. Or you could conceivably omit it altogether, and make it exclusively fruit and vinegar. This is a much sweeter shrub than the cucumber, and the flavor of the berries comes through nicely, contrasting with the acidic vinegar.  I also added less sugar than the original recipe called for, but would probably add even less next time.

Finally, my third shrub for this initial collection, a nice blast of spice, ginger in all its glory!

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GINGER SHRUB
(from Chucrute com Salsicha)

1/2 cup minced ginger
1 cup apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
1/2 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan place the ginger and the vinegar. Heat to boiling, turn the heat off and transfer the mixture to a Pyrex type container. Let it cool to room temperature for 24 hours.

Strain the mixture through a very fine sieve over a bowl, allowing it to drain for 5 to 10 minutes, without pressing on the solids. The strained volume should be around 3/4 cup. If you have less, complete that amount with vinegar.  Discard de ginger, and add the liquid to a small saucepan. Add the sugar and boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar dissolves, simmer for a couple more minutes, then allow it to cool, and transfer to a clean bottle. Refrigerate until needed.

To drink, add a small amount to ice cubes on a tall glass, and complete with sparkling water, a 1:4 volume syrup to sparkling water is a good starting point.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This last shrub is for serious ginger lovers only, a very strong and potent ginger hit with each sip. I love ginger in all kinds of recipes savory and sweet, but I had to use about 1/8 of the volume of syrup to sparkling water, otherwise it was a bit too strong.  Another great use for this particular shrub is as a component of salad dressings, just add it as if you were using vinegar, whisk a bit of olive or grapeseed oil, and a touch of salt. Very nice option over simple greens or roasted beets. Shrubs (in their undiluted form) can also be poured over ice cream or sorbets, but I haven’t tried that yet.

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I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of shrubs and consider giving them a try.
I have a big list of flavors to try, so stay tuned for more…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Date Truffles 

TWO YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

FIVE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake

 

BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS

Almost six years of blogging, and I shared THREE drinks with you.  Three. That is an average of one drink post for every two years. Would that mean we are a boring couple as far as alcohol is concerned? Not quite the case. Phil enjoys a shot of tequila every once in a while, caipirinhas, good quality vodka on the rocks (he likes a brand called Chopin), and the eventual dry Martini. Shaken, not stirred. It turns out that “I” am the boring alcoholic component in our relationship, as 99% of the time I stick to white wine. But, even a boring person will occasionally go for a walk on the wild side. Take for instance these Margaritas, made with one of the sexiest fruits in the world: blood oranges. I love them. Now, keep in mind we made this drink quite sour, with no sugar added to it. Most people will prefer a little more sweetness, so adjust to your taste with simple syrup or a little agave, as suggested in the recipe.

Blood Orange Margaritas
BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

makes 1 drink

2 shots of blood orange juice
1.5 to 2 shots tequila of your choice
1 shot lime juice
1 shot Curaçao (or another orange liqueur)
1 drop vanilla extract (optional)
sugar to taste (simple syrup, agave) – we omitted

Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Pour over crushed ice.  Take a sip, and open a big smile!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Many (too many) years ago, I could enjoy a festive drink before dinner, then switch to a glass of wine or two with the  meal. No major harm done, life next day would be normal.  Not anymore. I do not dare mixing types of alcohol, not even those that are supposed to “work”. You know, the famous saying: Liquor before beer, never fear…  Not for me. I now have a huge respect for alcohol, as a hangover will knock me in horizontal position until 5pm next day. For the record, the last time I had a hangover was after a 4th of July party in 2010. No desire to face another one. So, I have this fascination for beautiful drinks, but rarely indulge. When I do, that becomes my drink for the evening, no wine with the meal.

These Margaritas were so refreshing and light!  We like our drinks very sour, in fact this time they were almost too sour for Phil’s taste, but I thought they were pretty good. You never know how red a blood orange will be until you cut it open, so there’s always some excitement associated with them.  Only one grocery store in town carries them, and it’s the one on the other side of town (you know, a 10 minute drive instead of 5). I bought a few with the intention of preparing a blood orange vinaigrette, perhaps a blood orange pound cake, but Phil came up with the idea of a colorful drink, and that was it.  With a Mexican-type dinner, it was a delightful evening. The vanilla addition was something I saw as a tip somewhere a while ago, wish I could give proper credit. Just a little drop, don’t go wild with it, or it might overpower your margarita.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

TWO YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

FIVE YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

BORDER GRILL MARGARITAS

Remember the Two Hot Tamales?   I was a huge fan of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken‘s show back in the good old days of FoodTV Network.  When we lived in Los Angeles, I made a point to go to one of their restaurants in town, the “Border Grill”.   We chose a perfect day, Cinco de Mayo!  The place was packed, but the service was nonetheless outstanding.   We had their spicy margaritas with our dinner: a touch of jalapenos swimming in enough booze to make us happily oblivious to the heat.  It took me over a year to finally make those drinks at home, but it won’t be long until we make them again. A fitting drink for a summer evening!

CUCUMBER JALAPENO MARGARITA
(adapted from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken)
Makes: 2 drinks

12 slices peeled cucumber
4 to 6 slices jalapeño (we used Serrano peppers)
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1 heaping teaspoon superfine sugar
crushed ice
3 ounces silver tequila (we used Herradura)
1 + 1/2 ounce orange liqueur
2 cucumber slice, for garnish

Combine the cucumber, serrano pepper, lime juice, and superfine sugar in a small blender (or a cup suitable to use with an immersion blender). Blend everything together until smooth.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila and orange liqueur, then add the cucumber mixture.   Shake gently to combine, pour into a couple of margarita glasses, and garnish each with a cucumber slice.   Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Our main modification of the recipe was to process the cucumber using an immersion blender.  I tried my best to mash the cucumber as they do in the restaurant (according to the recipe in the link), but we were getting nowhere.  Cucumber was flying, pepper was flying after it, not exactly the atmosphere we were hoping for our Friday evening.    If you have the skill of a seasoned bartender, grab the mortar and pestle.   Moi?  I was a lot happier with this  setting:

But, no matter how you get around to it, make this drink! And play with the amount of pepper.  Next time, we’ll be up for  a little more heat, just because…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Goodbye L.A.

TWO YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough

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A PEARFECT DRINK

In almost three years of blogging, I have shared one recipe for a drink. One.  Check the index, and you will see caipirinha, the Brazilian national drink, sitting all alone in that category.   This disturbing situation  changes today, with a nice drink Phil made for us this past weekend, inspired by a recent show from Giada de Laurentiis: the peartini.   We modified the recipe making it a lot less sweet, and a tad less alcoholic.

PEARTINI FOR TWO
(inspired by Giada de Laurentiis)

for simple syrup (you won’t use it all)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
for drink
4  shots of pear juice (homemade, of course!)
2 shots of Vodka (we like Stolichnaya)
2 shots of lime juice
1 shot of simple syrup
shaker full of ice
two gorgeous strawberries

Make the simple syrup by heating the water and the sugar in a small sauce pan, until completely dissolved. Allow it to cool to room temperature, and store in the fridge for future uses.

Place ice cubes in your shaker until half full. Add all other ingredients for the drink, shake well and pour on martini glasses.

Garnish with a strawberry sliced halfway, not all the way through (obviously).

Sip slowly, it will match perfectly your favorite type of sushi and sashimi.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

When juicing the pears, be careful because they oxidize very quickly.  Mix the juice with some lime juice to slow down the process, or the drink will have a bit of a brownish hint.  No harm in flavor, only in looks.

You may ask why the strawberry decoration when we could have added a slice of pear? Two reasons:

1. We passed all pears through our Juiceman Jr., and forgot to put aside a couple of slices for garnish.

2. Strawberries are a lot sexier. So, there! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

TWO YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

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CAIPIRINHAS 101

THE WORLD CUP IS FINALLY HERE!

The World’s Most Adorable Dog….
printed with permission from Life of Jalo

I grew up watching all the games, and I still remember well when Brazil won (for the third time) in 1970, with a team that joined the one and only Pele’,  Rivelino, Tostao and Gerson, to name four of my favorites.  Most people in Brazil have their own routine  to watch the games and the whole country pretty much freezes when Brazil plays. Our family gathered at my parents’ home,  with my Mom sitting in her favorite chair, always wearing the same robe. It turns out that she wore it in the final game of 1970, when Brazil beat Italy in a nail-biter to capture the World Cup.   That outfit became, and remains to this day the “World Cup robe.”   It was carefully washed and stored away, only to appear every 4th year after that 1970 game.

Since I left the country watching the games hasn’t been the same, but  to bring the right spirit to the festivities I like to make “caipirinhas“, Brazil’s national drink.  It’s a blast of refreshing lime with “pinga” – a sugar cane distillate  not too hard to find in the US.
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CAIPIRINHA
(the authentic way, prepared one drink at a time)

1 thick-bottomed glass
1 large lime
1 Tbs granulated sugar
ice cubes (enough to fill the glass)
pinga (aka cachaca, aguardente de cana)

Wash the limes, cut both ends. Quarter the lime lengthwise, removing the central white pith which is bitter. Cut each quarter in half crosswise and place the lime pieces in the glass.

Add the granulated sugar, and working with a wooden pestle , crush the limes with the sugar.  Crushing the fruit with a wooden pestle is essential to the authenticity of this drink, but such tools are hard to find in the States.  If you don’t have one, maybe the handle of a heavy wooden spoon will suffice.   Once you’ve crushed the limes fill the glass with ice cubes or crushed ice. Pour pinga to the top, mix with a spoon and serve.

ENJOY!

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Comments: There are many types of pinga around.  Some are clear, some are aged,  turning yellow or  light brown.   Those are smoother, with less bite, and besides in capirinhas they may also be enjoyed by sipping.   In the US, the chances are that you will only find clear pinga, among which the most popular brands are “Ypioca”, “51”, and “Pitu”.

Recently in Food and Wine magazine the well-respected chef Daniel Bouloud shared his take on caipirinhas, and served them in wine glasses. My jaw dropped in disbelief when I saw the photos of this crime!  Mr. Boloud would certainly not approve of Champagne served in a teacup, and drinking  caipirinhas from wine glasses is just as bad.  So please, stick to these basic rules: prepare them in a large, strong glass, one drink at a time  using granulated sugar (no simple syrup, no agave nectar, no mint).

Brazilian-approved variations: You can use vodka in place of pinga, for a drink called “caipiroska“.  They’re delicious too, and probably a little easier next day ;-).   Some of my friends have been trying to convince me that “kiwi caipirinhas” are as good as the real thing, but I am a purist and I haven’t made them.  They do sound tasty, plus you get to eat the kiwi at the end.  Go lighter on the sugar if using kiwis, though.     And let me know if you try it, I might just relax my standards and go for it.  😉

Finally,  a few sound files to help you with Brazilian words…

Caipirinha click here  

Pinga… Cachaça… 

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