The Caipirinha, one of The Continental's two signature drinks, is the national cocktail of Brazil. Though the ingredients sound routine enough (rum, simple syrup, lime), this sugary-sweet concoction isn't made with just any cheap rum, lime juice and a packet of sugar. Sit down to sip one at The Continental and you will be transported to a warm, tropical place - even if it's 10 below outside. And if you're gung ho on adding the Caipirinha to your home cocktail repertoire, the friendly bartenders will likely offer advice on making them the right way.
The secret: The key is Cachaca 51 - a sugar cane-based rum that bartender Chris Gardner, 33, likens to tequila- and real limes. The sweet touch comes from the simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar and water. Gardener starts by muddling lime wedges and simple syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass. Then he fills the glass with ice, pours in the Cachaca, and shakes the concoction over a shaker a few times before serving.
The ratio: The Caipirinha is 2-to-1 rum. One lime (wedged), one ounce simple syrup and three ounces Cachaca, plus a full glass of ice.
Drink your Caipirinha: Slowly. The cocktail is delicious and you'll be tempted to gulp it down in a few mouthfuls, but do your best to resist. The combination of lime and simple syrup makes it deceivingly sweet and smooth. Try to remember that the drink contains more rum than anything else, or it will hit you like a brick wall. After a couple of these you will start to feel warm and tingly. Enjoy it.
The imitators: Other than Caipirinhas at the Brazilian Cafe Beaudelaire in Ames, we don't know of any. The Continental's other signature drink, the Pisco, is similar. The Peruvian national drink is made with grape liquor (Pisco) and muddled lemons instead of limes. A margarita on the rocks or a mojito might serve as a substitute in a pinch. If you're interested in making Caipirinhas at home, you can buy Cachaca at Central City Liquors.
The cost: $5.50 and worth every penny.
Get a Caipirinha
Where: The Continental, 428 E. Locust St., 244-5845, thecontinentaldsm.com
How much: $5.50
Ingredients: Cachaca 51 rum, simple syrup, limes
Who it's for: The Des Moines-ian suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder who's trying to remind him or herself of warm summer days.