February 9 is a busy date, but here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing up the Caipifruta as Drink of the Day. Sure, there are historic events like the anniversary of the first shipment of asparagus to San Francisco, and one of Willie Sutton’s prison escapes. But February 9 is also Carmen Miranda’s birthday, and nobody else can inspire a cocktail that’s as much a cornucopia of fruit garnishes as it is a drink. If there were a Carmen Miranda drink it would doubtless be the Caipifruta.
For those not familiar, Carmen Miranda was a Portuguese-born Brazilian samba singer, dancer, Broadway actress and film star. She was born in 1909, named Carmen due to father’s love of Bizet’s Carmen, and grew up in Rio de Janiero. She started working in a tie shop at the age of 14 when her sister fell ill with tuberculosis. Soon she began work in a boutique where she learned to make hats and opened her own business doing that. Her destiny, hat wise, was set.
She could also sing, and was introduced to the composer Josue de Barros. She recorded a single in 1929 and by the time her second recording arrived it achieved record sales. That was enough for RCA Victor to sign her to an exclusive contract.
She continued recording and started acting, arrived in New York in 1939 and appeared on Broadway in The Streets of Paris. She was soon a media sensation known as the Brazilian Bombshell. Hollywood soon reached out and filming started.
Her career was on the rise, and she became the highest earning woman in movies during the 1940s. She was also known for her outrageous costumes and wild hats. In the 1943 film The Gang’s All Here she wears a massive turban-shaped hat festooned with fake fruit. In that costume she sings The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat while a huge cast of backup dancers waves giant bananas.
The crazy hats are a big part of how she was known during her career and are her legacy. She became a part of the pop culture of the day, appearing in Loony Toons cartoons, with Bugs Bunny in her hat (and stealing fruit) in Slick Hare from 1947. Today, even Amazon sells a variety of what’s known as a Carmen Miranda Fruit Hat.
Of course, a Carmen Miranda hat is not really as silly as it sounds. Think of it as a reserve of cocktail garnishes and Tiki drink ingredients you’ll have right at hand when the hat’s perched atop your head. We’ll make good use of that fact today when we mix a Caipifruta.
But let’s establish something up front. A Caipifruta is not like a Bobby Burns or other cocktail in which ingredients are closely defined. The recipe is a template rather than an absolute.
When you get down to it the Caipifruta is really a Caipirinha made with other fruits instead of limes. It’s super popular in Brazil and commonly made with pineapple, mint, strawberry, passionfruit and whatever else you have on hand.
Of course we’re mixing with Cachaca because, well, it’s Brazilian and appropriate for toasting Carmen Miranda. But when you get down to it Cachaca is really unaged rum made from sugarcane juice. Just like Rhum Agricole. So if you’re missing Cachaca in your liquor cabinet go ahead and pull out a bottle of Rhum Agricole. If you’re really remiss and don’t have that you can resort to a white rum made from molasses, but then you’ll miss out on mixing a Dernier Mot as well.
- 2 oz Caipirinha or Rhum Agricole, or in a pinch white rum.
- 1 tsp sugar
- Mixed fruit of choice
- Add pieces of fruit and sugar to an Old Fashioned glass.
- Lightly muddle.
- Add Cachaca.
- Add crushed ice and stir.
- Garnish with a cornucopia of fruit.
- Put on some Samba music.
- Repeat as necessary