Lemongrass Caipirinhas Cocktails
I’m starting to think that my friends and I are a bunch of boozers. I mean, you can’t really blame us that much…this cocktail was a fun way to kick off the dinner party and it was so delicious that it was impossible to have just one…or two! This could be my mostest favoritest drink ever.
So today, Chapter II of ‘The Dinner Party Chronicles,’ Volume I, will feature the recipe for the Pre-Dinner Cocktail – Lemongrass Caipirinhas. And oh boy, let me tell you, you’re gonna love this cocktail. The drink is refreshing and complex and it has a nice almost, floral overtone. A great summertime or brunch drink.
Before I go on, a quick note for those not familiar with ‘The Dinner Part Chronicles.’ The ‘Chronicles’ is a feature of this blog that recaps the successes AND failures of dinner party menus and recipes thrown by yours truly. It is divided into volumes and chapters. Volume refers to the actual date of the dinner party. And each chapter (i.e. posting) will focus one specific dish of that night’s meal.
Here’s a quick recap of the menu for Volume I (June 20, 2009):
Pre-Dinner Cocktails: Lemongrass Caipirinhas
Main Coarse: Port/Orange Sauce Braised Duck Breast & Asparagus Salad
Dessert: Fennel Ice Cream on Sugared Puff Pastry with Caramel Sauce
With that said, on to Chapter II: The Pre-Dinner Cocktail.
The idea of this drink started with one ingredient…the lemongrass. I had a few stalks on hand. I wanted to use them somehow in a dinner party we were hosting but I wasn’t sure how. At first, I was thinking about using them in the main dish….maybe, some type of poultry in a lemongrass braise. But I decided against that. Or a dessert…maybe, a lemongrass and buttermilk ice cream. Nope. I had already decided that I was going to make Fennel Ice Cream with Sugared Puff Pastry (to be featured in the next chapter).
And then the idea of making a cocktail came to mind. I wanted to play up the inherent tropical nature of the lemongrass. Immediately, two drinks come to mind….Mojitos or Caipirinhas. I had some cachaça on hand, a Brazilian liquor made from sugarcane juice and the main ingredient of caipirinhas. So, caipirinhas it was. (NOTE: The last time I worked with cachaça for was this Fresh Coconut & Cachaça Sorbet.)
Instead of mashing the lemongrass to release its flavor into the drink I though it would be more flavorful to use a lemongrass simple syrup. A flavored simple syrup also solved another problem – I hate when using sugar in cocktails. A good bit of the sugar always settles to the bottom of the glass, leaving you with an unpleasant, gritty finish to the drink.
With a plan in mind, I set out to find the right ingredient balance. On that note, recipe development/testing for cocktails is a lot more fun than testing chicken soup recipes– I can promise you that.
I think the final drink hits the mark. As I mentioned in the intro, the lemongrass syrup adds a beautiful almost-floral like quality to the cocktail. I can totally see Carrie and the rest of the Sex in the City girls ditching their tired ole’ Cosmopolitans for this far more refreshing and complex drink. On that note, while I wouldn’t necessarily serve this drink at your next Super Bowl Party, I think that your average guy can also get into.
I prefer to make this in one big batch for parties. But you could easily make this on a glass-by-glass basis – 1 oz each of lemongrass syrup and cachaça, plus splash of club soda and crushed ice.
I recommend that before you mix the entire batch, that you test out the proportions with one serving to make sure that the sweetness of the drink is to your taste. If need to, you can adjust the balance.
1 cup lemongrass, cut into 1″ dices
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 cups cachaça
9 limes, cut into eights
In a medium sized, heavy bottom sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the lemongrass and 3 sups of water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a tight lid and let lemongrass steep for 30 minutes.
Strain liquid and discard the lemongrass. You should have about 2 cups of liquid. Pour lemongrass back into sauce pan and pour in sugar. Heat liquid enough to completely dissolve the sugar. Set syrup aside until it is room temperature. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
Blend cold lemongrass syrup and cachaça in one pitcher.
To serve, place 4 pieces of a quartered lime in the bottom of the glass. Using a muddle or the back of a wooden spoon crush the limes to release their juice. Pour in about ½ cup of the syrup/cachaça mix. Add finely crushed ice. And top off drink with club soda (to taste, in order to adjust the sweetness of the drink).