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Summersalt Happy Hour 10.0

Serrano Chili Cucumber Caipirinha

A beautiful melding of spicy flavors that only reveal themselves through each leisurely sip.

  • A new twist on
  • the Brazilian national
  • drink, Caipirinha.

Jenny Huang's twist on the classic Brazilian drink, Caipirinha, will definitely convince you to start liking spicy cocktails.

Even though I was raised on Sichuan food and love all things spicy, for the longest time I thought that I did not like spicy cocktails. But recently I have come to realize that it isn't the heat that I don't like, it is more the inability of most of these cocktails to find the right balance. So often the chili is such an in-your-face flavor that all other ingredients besides the alcohol is muted, and as a result the drink comes across as very one note. I am a big big fan of the art of cocktail making and it's an endlessly fascinating topic for me. When I am having a good cocktail, I am always looking for subtle nuanced flavors. My favorite cocktails never scream of this ingredient or that ingredient, rather they are a beautiful melding of flavors that only reveal themselves through each leisurely sip. That is what you have here with my take on the Brazilian national drink, Caipirinha.

In my recipe I am infusing the cachaça, a sugarcane based spirit, with lemongrass, Thai basil, and serrano chili. An infusion is a great way to put your own stamp on a drink. It is so easy to mix and match flavors and all that is required is a little planning and time. Here the lemongrass, that oh so necessary herb used throughout South Asia, adds a subtle citrus note to the drink. The Thai basil, a very natural accompaniment to the lemongrass, brings its complex anise and licorice-like flavors. And finally, for the kick I am using serrano chilies here. I like the subtle vegetal notes that serranos always bring to a dish and will pretty much always use it over a jalapeño. The resulting flavors are understated and yet they feel as if through time, they have become one with the cachaça. To make the actual cocktail, I have done very little to change the original. After all, It is much beloved for a reason. The only little addition is some cucumber for an extra bit of cooling lightness, making this already easy to drink cocktail far too easy to drink lots of.


 - 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer parts removed
 - 2 serrano chilies, sliced
 - 1/2 cup packed Thai basil, stems and leaves
 - 750 ml cachaça
 - half a lime, cut into 4 wedges
 - 1 1/2 inch piece of cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch segments
 - 1 tablespoon sugar
 - thinly sliced cucumber for garnish
 - 2 oz infused cachaça

Step 1.0

To make the infused cachaça:
Use the back of a knife to bruise the lemongrass, releasing the oils. Tie into a knot. Combine the lemongrass, serrano chilies, Thai basil, and cachaca in a jar or bottle. Seal and set aside for 24 hours. After 24 hours taste and strain if satisfied with flavor. If not, allow to steep a bit longer making sure to taste after an hour or two longer. Don't leave too long!

Step 2.0

To make the Caipirinha
In a double old fashioned or highball glass, muddle the lime wedges and cucumber with the sugar. Make sure to muddle until plenty of juice has come out of the lime and cucumber.

Step 3.0

Gently wrap the cucumber slice around the glass, fill with ice, and add the infused cachaça. Stir and enjoy.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s recipe!

Peach Shrub Summer Baby

Jenny Huang is a freelance food photographer, stylist, recipe developer and master mind behind the blog Hello My Dumpling, a 2016 Saveur Magazine's Blog Awards winner. Based in Brooklyn, her favorite foods to eat and cook always have long histories of being passed from one generation to another.  She is always looking to explore the stories behind dishes and the deep meaning that food memories have for people. Jenny believes that cooking and eating should always be both a beautiful and deeply personal adventure.


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