Written by Emily Bell; photos and video by Antoinette Bruno
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Technique: Liquid Nitrogen Caipirinha Lucas Paya at the Bazaar by José Andrés – Los Angeles, CA January 2010
The caipirinha is a lesson in simplicity. Combining sugar and fresh lime juice with a delicate, light-bodied spirit yields a sublimely refreshing cocktail, the national drink of Brazil that nearly 200 million citizens quaff with patriotic pride. The caipirinha is a hugely popular export, a staple of most mature cocktail programs, and because it’s made with cachaça, it speaks uniquely of Brazil. Unlike most rums, which are made from the molasses byproduct of sugarcane refinement, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice. The result is lighter-bodied spirit with clean flavors that mingle exceptionally well with a simple mixture of sugar and lime juice.
In 2005 we saw a frozen caipirnha courtesy of Ferrán Adria, who created a base mixture which was then frozen at -4°F to create super-smooth caipirinha cubes. At the Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, we encountered another frozen take on the caipirinha that avails itself of emerging science-savvy cocktail culture. SLS Beverage Director Lucas Paya prepares a frozen caipirinha that leaves the integrity of the classic intact. By gently whisking a steady stream of liquid nitrogen into a cachaça, lime juice, and sugar mixture, Paya is able to create a soft but solid frozen version. Because liquid nitrogen freezes the alcohol mixture so immediately, there is no crystallization, yielding a silky smooth texture. Draping tarragon leaves on top adds a sweet herbal note, while fresh lime zest adds another pop of bright flavor. Frozen cocktails are definitely in demand in the warmer months of the year, but this technique could just as easily be applied to a winter drink in need of frosty reinvention.
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Photos by Antoinette Bruno
Step One: Add 5 to 6 ounces of prepared caipirinha mix (cachaça, lime juice, and sugar) to a large stainless steel bowl. Step Two: Very carefully and slowly, begin pouring a thin stream of liquid nitrogen into the bowl. Step Three: As you add the liquid nitrogen, whisk constantly to ensure even freezing. This creates the “ice cream” texture, which is creamy and soft but still a solid mass. Step Four: Add more liquid nitrogen as needed to achieve desired texture, making additions slowly and very sparingly, whisking steadily after final addition. Mixture should be a solid mass but still creamy and soft. Step Five: When mixture is evenly frozen and soft, spoon it into a serving glass. To finish drape fresh tarragon leaves over the top and garnish with edible flowers and freshly grated lime zest.
For the Mix:
Muddle the limes very gently. Add the lime juice and the sugar and stir to incorporate well. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to incorporate. Let the mixtures sit for 20 minutes and strain before using.
To Assemble and Serve:
Freeze the caipirinha mix with liquid nitrogen. Garnish with fresh tarragon leaves, edible flowers, and additional lime zest.