Skip the vodka and sample some of these gold medal-worthy drinks.

by Brian Good | July 5, 2016

Even if you aren’t among the estimated 500,000 men and women trekking to Rio in August for the Olympics, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of the South American experience. One easy way to do it? Buy a bottle of one of the region’s most popular local spirits.

According to Ivy Mix, 2015 American Bartender of the Year and co-owner of Brooklyn’s Leyenda, it’s a golden time for South American spirits in the States. “There are so many great drinks from the region that people here have never experienced. It’s really fun to try them out, learn about them, and see what you like,” she says. Take the Pineapple Caipirinha, for example:

4 (1- to 2-inch) pineapple chunks, rind removed
2–3 mint leaves
1⁄2 lime, cut into wedges
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz cachaça

To make
Muddle the pineapple, mint, lime, and simple syrup in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice. Add the cachaça. Shake vigorously. Strain and serve in a rocks glass filled with ice (crushed or cubes). Optional: Garnish with a wedge of lime or pineapple or a sprig of mint.

Learn all about the spirit this summer cocktail is made from below. This primer will teach you everything you need to know.


What It Is: The national drink of Brazil, it’s a spirit made from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice. “It’s similar to rum, which is made with molasses,” says Mix. “But since cachaça comes from fresh ingredients, it has a funkier, fruitier taste.”

Why You’ll Like It: Cachaça can be sold unaged or aged. Both are good—but the aged versions are more interesting. “There are around 30 different indigenous Brazilian woods that cachaça can be stored in, and each changes the flavor,” Mix explains. Check out cachaça aged in amburana for a spirit with a warmer, more savory flavor, or balmwood, for a clove and anise taste.

How to Use It: The classic cachaça drink is a caipirinha. All you need to do is shake together simple syrup, lime juice, cachaça, and ice. Muddle in mango, papaya, or berries for a tasty twist. (Or pineapple, like the recipe above.)

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