GOOOOAAALL!!!!! It strikes once every four years – World Cup fever.
People from every corner of the world (even America) are glued to their television sets watching soccer (or football everywhere else in the world). Sports fans gather at parties or bars for festive celebrations, employees call in sick and in many countries workers get the day off to watch their teams compete.
This year’s Cup has already proven to be an exciting one, with surprising upsets and underdog victories in the first round. What also makes the 2014 World Cup special is that it is being held in what is arguably the most football-crazed nation in the world: Brazil.
I witnessed the madness in Brazil 12 years ago, the last time they took the World Cup crown. I was staying in an eco-resort, deep in the Amazon. Even in the very heart of the jungle, we would pass by fishermen’s shacks with Brazil banners proudly displayed.
For the semi-final match, the resort basically shut down except for three televisions outside, where everyone gathered to watch the game. Since the match was being played in Japan, it started around sunrise. This early-morning start had no impact on the Brazilians’ party spirit. They gathered with gusto and served free glasses of cachaça (yes, I did imbibe at 6 a.m.).
Four days later, the scenario repeated itself, except I was overnighting in Manaus, the capital city of the northern state of Amazonas, before my flight back to the States. When Brazil knocked off Germany for the championship, the entire city erupted into one big party. The streets were filled with revelers and this continued all day and night. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) for me, the airport was still open and I returned to the States, where Brazil’s triumph barely merited a mention.
Almost as closely associated with Brazil as soccer is cachaça, a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane. While most rum is produced by distilling molasses, a byproduct of refining cane into sugar, cachaça is forged from fermented cane juice. One and a half billion liters of cachaça are consumed annually in Brazil. The liquor has a fiery flavor tempered with a hint of sugary sweetness.
The most popular way to enjoy cachaça is the caipirinha, considered the national drink of Brazil. The cocktail is a combination of muddled lime, sugar and cachaça served over ice.
Cachaça was first consumed in the mid-1500s by slaves on sugar cane plantations in the country’s northeast. The name caipirinha is derived from the Portuguese word caipira, which refers to someone from the countryside, loosely meaning hick or country bumpkin. This is coupled to the -inha suffix, a term of endearment denoting little or small (as in the nicknames of famous footballers Paulinho and Ronaldinho).
Similar to its Cuban cousin the mojito, the caipirinha is created from muddled limes, making for a fresh and citrusy drink. There are two keys to the traditional Brazilian recipe: one, using superfine sugar, which dissolves much better than regular sugar; and two, muddling the sugar granules with the lime wedges, so that the oils are extracted from the lime zest, enhancing the aroma and flavor.
The result is a super-refreshing elixir, perfect for a hot afternoon of watching football. No matter what team you support, give a nod to the hosts of this year’s tournament with a caipirinha toast.
2 ounces cachaça
.75 ounces fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 peeled lime (quartered)
First, peel the skin of a lime, cut the flesh into eighths and muddle in a mixing glass with simple syrup. Add the rest of the ingredients with ice and shake vigorously. Dump with shaken ice into a glass and serve. Sprinkle with a dash of sugar on top and garnish with a lime wedge.