Where: Pernambuco, northeast Brazil.
Origins: Developed by Portuguese colonials from slave run sugarcane plantations.
Serving suggestion: Mixed into a caiprinha cocktail and enjoyed on the beach at sunset.
As with so many former colonies, much of Brazil’s culinary heritage is based on the products introduced by its old colonial masters. The cultivation of sugarcane in Pernambuco, in northeast Brazil, is a hangover from the rule of the Portuguese who set up plantations here in the sixteenth century and imported slaves from West Africa to work them. This makes it a great place to sample the national tipple – cachaca, a brandy distilled from sugarcane.
The fiery cachaca is drunk straight by those with strong stomachs but is more often mixed up with fresh fruit juice to make coolers called batidas. Perhaps its most delicious form is as a caipirinha, a cocktail comprised of freshly chopped limes, mashed together with sugar, lots of ice and lashings of the spirit!
A fantastic place to kick back and enjoy this cocktail is the beach resort of Porto de Galinhas, 30 miles from the state capital Recife. It’s a paradise now but its beauty belies a tragic past – its name means Port of Chickens and dates back to when African slaves were brought to work sugar plantations in cages like chickens. These days the tourist industry has appropriated this story for itself. The town is covered in brightly coloured ceramic chickens – holding up road signs, on plates and grinning outside bars and restaurants. Perhaps this is terrible exploitation of a tragic episode in history – you decide.
Bar Marcao serves up great caiprinhas on the Praia Maraipe beach in front of a beautiful coconut grove and is frequented by a laid back clientele of travellers and surfers. For the best seafood in town (especially lobster) eat at Beijupira Restaurantthat’s decorated in quaint fairy lights and seashells.
For great seafood, especially lobster, in Porto de Galinhas
By Kate Griffiths