Playing with the Novo Fogo Caipirinha Kit

The Caipirinha — a simple, rustic combination of muddled limes, sugar, and cachaca — is one of the world’s most popular cocktails. It’s also one of the easiest to prepare, tolerant of some imprecision in measurement and requiring no straining whatsoever. Just muddle the limes and sugar, add cachaca and ice, shake, and pour the whole thing into a glass. A basic recipe:

2 oz cachaca (Novo Fogo of course!)
1/2 lime, quartered, trimmed of pith
1 tablespoon superfine sugar

That’s pretty easy. To make it even easier, Novo Fogo Cachaca recently introduced a new Caipirinha Kit containing a bottle of their silver cachaca, a nice wooden muddler, and two mason jars in which to make and serve the cocktails. The jars eliminate the need for even having a cocktail shaker; shake everything in the jar, pop the lid, and drink. It’s so easy, even a pug can do it.

Well, almost.

Since I work with Novo Fogo, they sent me a few of the kits to play around with and try out in some seasonal variations. Another great thing about the Caipirinha is that it’s incredibly versatile. The simple base of sugar, lime, and cachaca lends itself to lots of possibilities, pairing nicely with fresh fruit, herbs, and other spirits. I took the kit out to a few parties to see what we could come up with.

First up was meeting with my friends Tom, Kristen, and Porter the Pug. Taking advantage of end of summer Oregon produce, we hit the backyard with a bunch of berries. A couple combinations that worked: A Caipirinha with huckleberries and basil, and another with blueberries and St. Germain. In both drinks a handful of fruit was muddled along with the lime and sugar, then everything shaken together.

The next stop was a picnic with the Portland Culinary Alliance at Goschie Hop Farms in Silverton, Oregon. This was right at the beginning of fresh hop season, so hops were everywhere. As you can imagine, the place smelled amazing. (Yes, that’s an entire room filled with hops.)

This gave me the idea of making a fresh hop Caipirinha. The Caip-beer-inha, a Caipirinha topped with a splash of IPA, is a cocktail Ezra Johnson-Greenough and I have served many times, so this seemed like it could work. It turns out that muddling hops doesn’t actually extract a ton of flavor, although the drink was nice enough. A fresh hop cone does make a killer garnish though. When they’re in season, I could imagine using them to decorate a Caip-beer-inha.

Finally, at a cocktail fundraiser event at Fish Sauce, Tommy Klus, Will Ray, and I dialed in a Caipirinha made with kummel, a liqueur flavored with caraway and other savory herbs, proving that Caipirinhas really can work with just about anything. This one had cachaca, lime, sugar, kummel, and Angostura bitters, and was surprisingly tasty. (Recipe coming soon; the photo above is our old-style mason jar.)

The Caipirinha Kits are already available in a few states, including Oregon, with many more on the way.

(Some photos courtesy of Tom and Kristen. Check out Kristen’s Etsy design store for wedding and party ideas.)


Bars on Fire at Cafe Saint-Ex

Corrida de Cavalos

I’ve been too wrapped up in book duties to post many cocktails lately, but now that that’s mostly complete I’m back to blogging and tending bar. My next stop takes me back to my old home of Washington, DC where I’ll be guest bartending at Cafe Saint-Ex on Tuesday with Franklin Jones of The Gibson! We have a menu of Novo Fogo cachaça cocktails ready for our Bars on Fire event, happening 5-8 pm. Here’s a preview of one them, the Corrida de Cavalos. It wasn’t made with horse racing in mind, but the use of mint and the timing of the Kentucky Derby is such a nice coincidence that I’ll pretend it was intentional.

2 oz Novo Fogo silver cachaça
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz mint vinegar
1/2 oz rich simple syrup (2:1)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz soda
mint sprig garnish, for garnish

Shake cachaça, lime, vinegar, syrup, and bitters with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with soda, garnish with fresh mint.

To make the mint vinegar:

1 cup champagne vinegar
leaves from 5-6 mint sprigs

Bring vinegar to a boil, pour over leaves, and allow to infuse overnight or for a couple days. Strain and bottle.


Midnight Shift

Midnight Shift cocktail on my rooftop.

It’s been a while since I posted a “brown, bitter, and stirred” cocktail (as my friend Lindsey likes to order them). It’s also been a while since I made a new cocktail with Novo Fogo cachaça. The Midnight Shift addresses both of those oversights:

1 1/2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
3/4 oz Cynar
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Galliano L’Autentico
2 dashes mole bitters
1 dash absinthe
orange peel, for garnish

Give all the ingredients a good long stir with ice and strain onto a big frozen cube, if you have one handy. Otherwise serve it on your normal rocks. And don’t omit the orange peel. Like Jeff Lebowski’s rug, the citrus oil really ties everything together.

Speaking of Novo Fogo, the other purpose of this post is to inform you that Novo Fogo founder Dragos Axinte and Los Angeles bartender Jaymee Mandeville of Drago Centro will be guest bartending at Metrovino on October 22 as part of Novo Fogo’s “Bars on Fire” series. Come by from 5-8 pm to welcome them to Portland and enjoy creative cachaça cocktails.


Hot Caipi


Everybody knows that the Caipirinha is a fantastic drink for summer. But how about for winter? Surprisingly, it’s a great drink for the cold months too. Just try serving it hot.

The idea struck me as strange when my friend Tobias Heinrich told me about it, but apparently it’s become quite popular in Germany. He remembers seeing the drink show up at German Christmas markets in the early 2000s, sold from booths alongside the traditional Glühwein. Cachaça sells extremely well in Germany; according to this site the country accounts for about one quarter of cachaça exports, with the Caipirinha second only to beer in drink orders. It gets cold there, so apparently some enterprising bartenders adapted the cocktail to turn it into a warming beverage.

The method for this is pretty much the same as for a regular Caipirinha, except that instead of shaking with ice you’re adding hot water. Some recipes also call for mint. Though I like unaged cachaça in a cold Caipirinha, in the hot version the spice notes from a barrel aged cachaça are a nice addition. I served it at an event this week with Novo Fogo Gold and it went over very well.

2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
1 oz turbinado syrup (1:1)
1/2 lime, quartered
5-6 oz hot water

Muddle the lime in the bottom of a heated mug. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and serve.

[Photo courtesy of Novo Fogo.]




The Caipirinha, a simple mixture of muddled lime, sugar, and cachaça, lends itself to infinite variation. Different fruits or syrups are often added to it. A German friend tells me that the Hot Caipi — a Caipirinha made with hot water instead of ice — is popular in the winter there. At Metrovino we give the drink a Pacific Northwest twist, finishing it with a hoppy Oregon ale.

Ezra from The New School came up with the idea of making a Caipirinha with beer. We tried out several variations, but I decided I like this simple one the best. It’s a basic Caipirinha topped off with about an ounce of IPA. The beer adds a lightly bitter backbone and some length to the cocktail, making it a perfect summer patio drink.

2 oz cachaça
1/2 lime, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon sugar
1 oz IPA

Muddle the sugar and lime, add the cachaça, and shake with ice. Dump everything into a rocks glass, top with the IPA, and give it a gentle stir before serving.

For the cachaça we of course use my favorite Novo Fogo Silver; our beer is Ninkasi Total Domination IPA. The flavors work wonderfully together.

[Thanks to Brenda from Food Shed for the excellent photo.]

Crystal Caipirinha and Cleared for Departure


Mane to tail drinking with pimento dram


When Haus Alpenz brought St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram into the US market a few years ago, it immediately became one of my favorite staples behind the bar. Allspice dram is one of those forgotten liqueurs that shows up in some vintage cocktail recipes and then largely disappeared. The spirit is made by infusing allspice (or “pimiento”) berries into Jamaican rum and then sweetening the mixture. It’s delicious and powerfully aromatic stuff, packed with winter spice notes like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Haus Alpenz wisely chose the more descriptive and appetizing “allspice dram” over the traditional “pimento dram,” the latter of which calls to mind those red things stuffed into bar cheap olives.

Now there’s a second allspice liqueur on the market. The Bitter Truth from Germany is using the classic name Pimento Dram for their offering. I received a sample a few weeks ago and I love it. It’s very rich and complex, with everything you’d want from an allspice liqueur. In price and proof it’s closely matched to the St. Elizabeth. I don’t have a strong preference between the two and am happy to recommend both of them.

This isn’t a spirit you’re likely to drink straight. It’s made for cocktails, so here are two to try. The first is the Lion’s Tail, brought back to prominence by cocktail historian Ted Haigh. It originally appeared in the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, but I like Ted’s contemporary version from Imbibe magazine. This is a fantastic winter drink:

2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz allspice (or pimento!) dram
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Looking for a summery version of this drink, I came up with a variation called the Lion’s Mane using Novo Fogo’s Gold Cachaca, which is aged in oak for two years:

2 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaca
1/2 oz lapsang souchong syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz pimento dram
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. To make the syrup, brew lapsang souchong tea and combine it with an equal volume of sugar.

I also use pimento dram to make “spiced bitters,” an equal parts mix of the liqueur and Angostura bitters, that I keep in a dasher bottle at the bar. At Metrovino we pour through a lot of it making Lazy Bear cocktails. I haven’t tried Bitter Truth’s product this way, but I’m sure it would do well.


Crystal Caipirinha and Cleared for Departure


If you read this blog and stop by Metrovino for a cocktail, you might notice some recurring themes. The drink menu starts with a beer cocktail and ends with one featuring Bols Genever. In between there’s Farigoule, three different brands of gin, Smith and Cross rum, plantains, Chartreuse and chocolate, and clarified citrus juice. If that sounds like the kind of menu I would put together, that’s because it is. I’ve happily ended up playing a larger role in the bar program there than initially expected. I’m joined behind the stick by another Carlyle alum, Jason Karp, and a new arrival from Los Angeles, Elizabeth Foley, most recently at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut and Sidebar at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Part of the fun of being behind a bar regularly again is getting to put into practice some of the things I’ve been working on only for fun or for special events during the past year. Among these is agar agar clarification. The method for this was developed by Dave Arnold at the French Culinary Institute and it’s not too hard to work into one’s prep, yet as far as I know no one in Portland is doing much with it yet. We have two cocktails on our new menu using clarified juice as an ingredient.

The first of these is the Crystal Caipirinha. The Caipirinha is one of the world’s great cocktails, a rustic affair with cachaça, limes, and sugar. Traditionally one would muddle this drink. With clarified lime juice you don’t have to. You can stir it instead, and serve it up for a more refined presentation. From the appearance it could be a boring vodka Martini, which makes it all the more surprising when one gets the strong flavor and aromatics of cachaça and lime.

This way of making the Caipirinha is very spirit-forward, so it’s important to use a good cachaça. My favorite Novo Fogo is wonderful here. We served it in this cocktail at Teardrop Lounge recently and again at the Science of Cocktails event in San Francisco. Sugar cane really comes to the forefront in this take on the drink:

2 oz Novo Fogo silver cachaça
1 oz clarified lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup

Stir, serve up in a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist. It’s important to cut the lime twist over the drink; this isn’t just a visual garnish, it’s there to incorporate the citrus oils that would get released during muddling in a traditional Caipirinha.

The other drink we’ve put on our menu with clarified citrus is a take on the classic Aviation, the Cleared for Departure (possibly my favorite thing about clarified juice is all the clarification puns it opens up). According to one story, the Aviation is named for the sky-like color given to the drink by crème de violette, a liqueur flavored with violet petals. It’s a fantastic cocktail, but shaking it with ordinary juice clouds its appearance and takes away some of the violette’s striking hue. By substituting clarified citrus and stirring instead, you get a drink that’s crystal clear and has beautiful color.

When I make this at home I use the Beefeater Summer Edition gin, which has floral notes that are just perfect for this drink, and the Deniset-Klainguer crème de violette. It’s delicious but I can’t get either of those ingredients in Oregon right now. However the locally made Aviation gin and Rothman and Winter crème de violette work well too, so that’s what we use at Metrovino. And yes, I know that the Aviation cocktail is usually made with lemon, but lime also goes nicely here.

2 oz Aviation gin
1/2 oz clarified lime juice
1/3 oz maraschino liqueur
1/3 oz crème de violette

Stir, serve up with a lemon twist.

So far both of these drinks have been fairly easy to work into our cocktail menu. The execution is simple and the preparation isn’t as time-consuming as it might at first appear. One can juice early, let the agar agar set while doing other work, then filter right before service. I’d like to see what other bartenders would do with the process.

The Pegu, clarified
A clarified coffee cocktail
Rum with it


Seigle Sour

Encanto 012

I promised one more cocktail with the spiced plantain syrup, and here it is. This is one Kyle and I served as a special at Metrovino a few nights ago, the Seigle Sour:

2 oz rye whiskey
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz spiced plantain syrup
1 egg white
Cherribiscus Spiced Bitters

Combine all but the bitters in a mixing tin, dry shake, then shake again with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the bitters.

Wild Turkey 101 works great as the rye in this drink. The bitters were made by Evan Martin with Novo Fogo cachaca as a base; feel free to substitute a different aromatic bitter.


What I’ve been drinking

Several people have mentioned that I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, which I suppose is better than no one noticing that I haven’t been updating. I’ve been far too busy testing drink recipes for my forthcoming cocktail guide to have time for writing. It’s a terrible burden, but someone has to carry it! Recipe selection wraps up today and then I am off to Houston for my ten year high school reunion, so things should return somewhat back to normal next week. In the meantime here are a few spirit reviews…

Glenlivet 1973 Cellar Collection– How does one review a whisky that sells for more than $1,000 a bottle? At that price it no longer makes sense to ask if it is worth the money in an ordinary sense. I can say that it’s an excellent whisky. It’s rich, warming at 98 proof, and has a slight fruit note that I assume comes from finishing in sherry cask. It’s not every day I get to taste a whisky older than I am and sometimes very old whiskies are just too woody. That’s not the case here. I only have a couple ounces of this but I would happily drink much more. This is a fantastic Scotch and if I’d gone into banking instead of blogging I might be tempted to buy a bottle.

Oxley gin — What sets this gin apart is its unique distillation process. As you might remember from physics class, when you lower the pressure on a liquid its boiling point drops as well. Oxley is distilled in a near-vacuum at a few degrees below freezing. That’s interesting for science nerds but it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t taste good. Luckily it does, with the fresh citrus peel used to flavor it standing out against lighter juniper notes. Its grapefruit taste makes it perfect for a Pegu Club. Definitely recommended.

Sagatiba cachaca — A few weeks ago the Oregon Bartenders Guild hosted Sagatiba brand ambassador John Gakuru for a cachaca event. Sagatiba isn’t in the state yet, but hopefully it will be soon. The Pura is a light, clean, and smooth unaged cachaca. It’s good but I am more excited about the Velha, a pot still cachaca aged between two and three years in bourbon barrels; this is nice neat and I could see it being great in cocktails. Finally we were also treated to their Preciosa, a very limited bottling of cachaca left to age 23 years in Cognac barrels. The finish is long and woody; it’s an unusual spirit worth sipping if one comes across it. Oregon is short on quality cachaca so the Pura and Velha will be very welcome additions here (I don’t know if the Preciosa is coming in).


MxMo: And a bottle of rum

Sangre de fresca

Today’s Mixology Monday is all about rum, a spirit of which I know virtually nothing. Sure, I use it in an occasional Mojito, Cuba Libre, or Dark and Stormy, but I haven’t experimented with many different bottlings or with more adventurous flavor combinations. For this MxMo, then, I didn’t strive for anything original.

Instead I turned to The Art of the Bar, the fantastically inventive cocktail book from Absinthe Brasserie and Bar’s Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz, and source of one of my favorite recipes of late: the Sangre de Fresca.

The Sangre de Fresca features cachaca. Some might say this doesn’t count as a rum, but it is distilled from sugar cane and rum has always played fast and loose with its definitions. I’m mixing with Leblon, which actually calls itself a Brazilian rum and is barrel aged, so I’m going to go with it. For the sticklers in the audience, I’ll shake one up with rum, too. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make; I drink to make you happy. Here’s the recipe:

2 hulled strawberries
4-5 basil leaves
.5 oz balsamic syrup*
1.5 oz cachaca
.25 oz Cointreau
.25 oz lime juice
soda water

Muddle the berries, syrup, and leaves. Add the spirits and lime juice and shake with ice, then strain over rocks and top with soda. This makes a nicely refreshing drink. The ripe, fruity smell of the cachaca pairs really well with the balsamic syrup, and of course strawberries and balsamic vinegar is a winning combination.

To tie this more perfectly to the rum theme, I’ve also tried this a few times with Rhum Barbancourt, a Haitian rum aged for four years, in place of the cachaca. This makes for a smoother drink, but the more powerful cachaca stands up better to the other strong flavors at play; the Brazilian spirit’s the way to go here.

To follow the rest of this month’s MxMo’s entrants, check in with Trader Tiki for the recap. And for an informative article on rum, see Paul Clarke’s recent piece in The San Francisco Chronicle.

*For the syrup, dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar into half a cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the water dissolves and the sugar caramelizes to an amber color. In a separate pan, simmer 1.5 cups of balsamic vinegar. Then take both off the heat and carefully add the vinegar to the caramelized sugar. Be careful, it will spatter messily. Heat the mix a few minutes longer until it thickens, cool it an ice bath (it retains heat very well), bottle, and store in the refrigerator. It’s a nice thing to have around and lasts a long time.

Update 5/13/08: Trader Tiki’s got your wrap-up right here.


I’d also like to meet Beija

Mike at the newly revamped Days That End in Y writes about his sampling of Beija, a new high-end cachaca just introduced in Boston. Cachaca, a Brazilian spirit distilled from sugar cane, is underutilized in the US, and mass market brands are pretty harsh. Beija is the first “virgin” designated cachaca and is made only from the first press of sugar cane. Mike says it tastes fantastic. I just hope it makes its way to Virginia or DC in time for summer caipirinhas.