Caipiroska Vs Caipirinha: What's The Difference Between These Cocktails?

The caipirinha, Brazil's national drink, is a summer favorite known for its refreshing, sweet-but-sour kick. For a tipple that's been around as long as this one has (historians largely settle between the 19th and early 20th centuries), it comes as no surprise that creative folks have come up with variants over time.

One such twist is the caipiroska, which has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. The two drinks are remarkably similar, both in name and listed ingredients. Based on a side-by-side comparison, you wouldn't be blamed for not being able to tell the difference until you tasted them both. In fact, there is only one ingredient that is different between the caipirinha and the caipiroska. The caipiroska's alternative name, the caipivodka, might just give you a clue as to what that ingredient is. In case you're still not quite sure where we're going with this, the key difference is vodka.

What's in a caipiroska?

To make a caipiroska, you need four ingredients: vodka, sugar or sugar syrup, ice, and fresh lime. Cut the lime into wedges, then muddle them in a cocktail shaker with the sugar syrup. When the lime juice is released, add the vodka and ice. Mix all the ingredients, and serve in a tumbler with a lime wedge as a garnish. It's super easy to make, and because you're essentially drinking limey vodka, it packs a punch.

The caipiroska's rise in popularity coincides with the introduction of vodka to the South American liquor market. Figures show that revenue from vodka has been growing steadily since 2020 and is projected to continue this upward trajectory into 2028 (via Statista).

It's not the only variation, either, as it's common to switch out the fruit in a caipirinha instead of the liquor. Popular options include berries, pineapple, mango, lemon, and kiwi.

The key ingredient in a caipirinha

If you're a traditionalist (or if you're not a fan of vodka), all you need for a caipirinha is cachaça. Predating the caipirinha by a few hundred years and considered the most popular drink in Brazil, cachaça, a sweet liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice, has been around since the 16th century.

Involving muddling limes and sugar and then adding liquor and ice, making a caipirinha is pretty much identical to the caipiroska method. The resulting taste is slightly sweeter, as is often the case when comparing fermented sugarcane juice to fermented cereals and potatoes.

The caipirinha, as well as its vodka-based variation, is a dangerously easy cocktail that's ideal for hot weather — or any weather. In an interview with Food 52, Martha Stewart describes it as "semi-deadly." And it's also one of her secret methods for an ideal dinner party — mostly because the guests will be too inebriated to find fault with the food. Genius, Martha.