Good Spirits > Summertime Cheer

Although I’m never sure that the warm weather will arrive in New England until August, summer appears to be here. I love walking around in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals; relaxing by the water’s edge; and listening to peepers or chirping crickets each night. But enduring the heat and humidity typical of Northeast summers is a survival test I usually lose. When the temperature breaks 90 degrees with a humidity level to match, I need liquid therapy. And I don’t mean water.

One leading candidate is a tangy, icy caipirinha (pronounced kye-perr-EENyah), which is among the latest trendy drinks to reach the cocktail-crazed East Coast. The caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil, a place where people know something about surviving a steamy, tropical climate. Although I’m second to none in my love for a margarita, a well-made caipirinha may be even more refreshing. Caipirinhas are made with cachaça (pronounced ka-SHAsa), a type of rum that’s distilled from fermented sugar-cane juice, instead of molasses like traditional rums. Cachaça is so popular in Brazil that more than four thousand brands are sold there.

At first quite tart, cachaça smoothes out nicely when mixed with fresh lime wedges, sugar and lots of crushed ice. Traditionally, instead of stirring the ingredients together, the sugar, lime chunks and cachaça are muddled, or crushed, in the bottom of the glass before adding the ice. If your kitchen or bar is fresh out of wooden pestles, you can muddle along just fine using the bottom of a heavy wooden spoon.

Among the best spots in New Hampshire to drink caipirinhas is the Blue Mermaid Island Grill in Portsmouth. With its festive, relaxed atmosphere, Caribbean-inspired menu and great array of drinks, even winter feels like summer inside Blue Mermaid.

Karen Logan—who owns the Blue Mermaid with her husband, Scott—says the caipirinha fits right in with the restaurant’s menu, which includes Chipotle Curry Paella, Plantain-Encrusted Grouper and a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wrap. “We have a following of people with eclectic tastes,” she says, as well as customers “who don’t travel much and wouldn’t know about it.”

Logan uses Leblon cachaça at Blue Mermaid. It’s a smaller, artesian brand distilled in small copper stills and aged in old cognac oak barrels. “Caipirinhas are not very well-known, but they’re becoming more popular as they move north from Boston,” she says. In addition to the traditional caipirinha, Logan makes another that’s been “Mermaidized.” Instead of using limes, she substitutes the juice of passion fruit, guava or some other exotic fruit.

Picturing such a refreshing creation, it’s hard to imagine not enjoying a perfectly made caipirinha, glistening with ice and making summertime a lot more palatable.

NHH Cachaça Cocktails

The Classic Caipirinha
Serves 1

-4 lime slices
-2 tablespoons raw sugar
-2 ounces Leblon cachaça

1. Place 3 lime slices in a shaker and add sugar. Muddle well.
2. Fill the shaker with ice and cachaça. Shake vigorously, pour into a rocks glass and garnish with a slice of lime.

Blue Mermaid Island Caipirinha
Serves 1

-2 ounces Leblon cachaça
-3 ounces guava juice
-Splashes of pineapple, lime and cranberry juices
-A splash of blue curacao
-1 lime slice for the garnish

1. Fill shaker with ice, add cachaça and guava, pineapple, lime and cranberry juices. Shake vigorously, then strain into a chilled martini glass.
2. Float a splash of blue curacao around the inside of the glass against the rim—it will sink to the bottom of the glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.