Brazil, world-famous for its beaches, bikinis and glittering nightlife. Despite its spectacular wilderness areas and fascinating culture, this nation enjoys almost mythic appeal to the hedonists, jetsetters and anyone in search of wilder adventures. When people finally arrive to this fabled party destination, the thing to do is order a drink. Specifically, a caipirinha.
The key ingredient in Brazil’s national cocktail is cachaca, a stiff sugarcane liquor ranging in quality from word-class rot gut in cheap plastic bottles, to pricey artisan brands served in Rio de Janeiro’s best nightclubs. The finest are manufactured in the old sugarcane fields near Brasilia.
The caipirinha is, at its simplest, cachaca, sugar and lime. There are dozens of tasty variations involving strawberries, mango, kiwi, sake, vodka, crushed ice and many other intriguing ingredients. Choose the classic for your first sunset right on the beach.
While you must try at least one caipirinha while you’re here (this might even be a requirement on some entry visas), keep in mind that it’s considered something of a tourist beverage—and a strong one at that. Most Brazilians planning to enjoy a long and festive evening stick to something a little less alcoholic.
Neighboring Chile and Argentina are well known for their excellent and inexpensive wines, which are widely available, but the most popular alcoholic beverage in Brazil is beer. Imports are available, in bigger cities at least, but why not give the nation’s own brews a chance?
There are more than a dozen Brazilian beers, most of which tend toward “light and refreshing,” rather than “bold and full bodied.” The top sellers are Brahma and Antarctica, though inexpensive Skol apparently has quite a following. For quality, the two top picks are usually Baden-Baden and Bohemia, a shade darker than the usual pilsner.
Budget travelers, and anyone interested in a taste of the real Brazil, should be sure to try “chopp,” the light, fresh draft beer available at street parties, beach bonfires and bars all over the country. Sometimes, you can pay a cover charge and enjoy all the chopp you can drink.
Hungover? No worries. Another popular local beverage is guarana, the active ingredient in many “energy drinks,” with more caffeine than coffee. Fresh coconut juice also does wonders. Enjoy!