Expert Advice For Making The Best Caipiroska Cocktail

The caiprioska, not to be confused with the cachaça-based caipirinha, is a simple and refreshing Brazilian cocktail that's perfect for fans of citrus. While the cocktail is relatively easy to make — simply combine vodka, sugar, ice, and fresh lime — it takes a bit of care and practice to master. This is where Molly Horn, manager of cocktail strategy at Total Wine & More, comes in. Mashed spoke to Horn about making a great caiprioska, and they provided several tips to help budding mixologists.

Whether you're a bartender or an at-home cocktail enthusiast, you'll want your caipirioska to burst with lime in each sip. Horn's first recommendation is to add a fifth ingredient to the standard recipe. "Having lived in Brazil for three years," one key recipe note in addition to muddling fresh lime and sugar is a splash of Rose's Lime Juice," they explain.

This cordial can be used in several cocktails, including the classic gimlet and cosmopolitan, which Horn says is making a comeback. As such, it's a great addition to any mixologist's arsenal. Adding Rose's Lime Juice will not only maximize the citrusy kick but will also add an extra sweetness due to its sugar content, elevating both aspects of the caiprioska's invigorating flavor.

Use the heart of the lime for a juicy muddle

For an even bigger kick of lime, Molly Horn shared their specific way of incorporating fresh lime into a caiprioska. Instead of a wedge, they use the "heart of the lime." "Take a lime and trim off the two ends and discard, then place flat on one end and slice off the edges around it into four cheeks." This will "[leave] you with one rectangular lime hunk," Horn explains.

Because this hunk is made up entirely of the lime's flesh, it will muddle (a process in which you lightly mash ingredients with a tool) far more easily. The only downside is that you'll lose out on the flavor imparted by the lime's rind and the drink's distinctive green hue. If you want to keep those in play, you can add one or two of the cheeks in the glass and muddle them with the lime chunk. As Horn says, "[Cheeks] release far more juice than a standard wedge when squeezed." Using them in your caiprioska will add a lively pop of green to your glass and add even more citrusy goodness.

Let your vodka shine through with the right sugar

Learning how to use several different varieties of sugar is a great skill, particularly for an amateur mixologist. For example, when it comes to the caiprioska's sister drink, the caipirinha, Molly Horn opts for "a tablespoon of Demerara sugar." Demerara is a raw sugar that has a naturally toffee-like taste and large crystals. While it pairs beautifully with cachaça by doubling down on the sweetness factor, Horn says a "less intense" sugar is better for a vodka-based drink like the caiprioska.

For this reason, they opt for good old-fashioned white sugar. This kitchen staple works to sweeten just about anything thanks to its neutral flavor, which is probably why it's so ubiquitous on coffee shop counters and pantry shelves. White sugar, Horn says, is best because it won't "overwhelm the vodka" with its flavors, allowing the lime and vodka combination to speak for itself.

Mix in the serving glass for texture and balance

If you have a cocktail shaker (especially one that's a recent addition to your toolkit), it can be tempting to use it for every drink you make. However, when it comes to the caiprioska, Molly Horn recommends sticking with the glass you'll be drinking from. "I find this cocktail is best made in [a] double old fashioned glass," they told Mashed.

Because the key to the caiprioska's flavor and texture is muddling and swizzling rather than shaking and straining, transferring the ingredients between receptacles is unnecessary. For example, using a strainer would extract the muddled pulp and zest from the drink. This means you'd either have to lose these key components altogether or dunk them back in your glass to congeal on the surface.

Aside from the unpleasant look, this will also affect the flavor. If the lime remnants are discarded, the drink will be watery and lose its citrusy flair. If they're dunked back in, you'll end up with an overpowering sourness that hits the tongue before the vodka and sugar have a chance to balance it. As Horn says, swizzling in the glass gives "the perfect combination of flavor pops and dilution."

Swizzle your caiprioska to achieve the ultimate mix

The art of swizzling cocktails is thought to have originated in the West Indies, beginning as a food preparation method that was applied to drinks around the 17th century. A traditional swizzle stick is plucked from the Quararibea turbinate, a tree with unique branches that splay out at the end. If you don't have a swizzle stick in your mixologist's arsenal yet, Molly Horn says you can just use a bar spoon. However, they also stipulate that swizzle sticks are "not to be confused with those little plastic straws from the dive bar" that are occasionally mislabeled as swizzles.

Along with muddling, swizzling the caiprioska greatly enhances the flavor. According to Horn, "[Swizzling] should move the crushed ice and ingredients around while adding dilution and still maintaining big pops of flavor, which is one of the joys of this drink."

If you don't know how to swizzle, Horn offered advice on that as well. After you've muddled the lime and sugar and added the vodka and crushed ice, place the swizzle stick or bar spoon "directly into the center of the drink and move back and forth between the palms of your hands while moving it up and down in the glass."

Muddle first, mix later!

It can be tempting to cut corners and add all four ingredients at once before muddling and swizzling the entire mixture. However, this could have pretty disastrous effects on your cocktail. In terms of dilution, which, as we've learned from Molly Horn's advice, is crucial to a great caiprioska, muddling crushed ice will leave you with water. Mashing the ice is bad enough, but the presence of sugar makes it even worse. Sugar absorbs heat faster, so when it's combined with ice, it will make the water molecules move faster. This means ice combined with sugar melts more quickly.

Losing the ice early on means three things: You'll have to add crushed ice later, as it's vital to the muddling stage, eating into your time; You'll end up sloshing cocktail mix everywhere due to excess liquid, causing you to lose product and making a mess; The cocktail will end up watered down and flavorless without the lime-and-sugar syrup created when the drink is muddled correctly. This is why Molly Horn makes the mixing order very clear, stating, "The best and easiest way to make [a caipiroska] is to start with the lime heart and sugar [and] muddle first, adding your splash of Rose's Lime Juice and two ounces of vodka before proceeding to the mixing stage."