A taste of Chimarrão. Photo by elbragon

Alcoholic or non-alcoholic, take your pick.

SEVEN YEARS AGO I was reborn as a Brazilian.

It wasn’t until I was in my last year of high school that I discovered I’m half Brazilian, and it wasn’t until I stepped foot in Brazil for the first time that I understood it was where I was meant to live.

Part of my Brazilian rebirth involved an insatiable hunt to discover what real Brazilians eat and drink. My advice: skip the Caipirinha.

1. Vitamina de abacate

My American friends often cringe at the sight of me whipping up a foggy green vitamina de abacate first thing in the morning, which is made by blending avocado, sugar, and milk. Blended smoothies (in Portuguese, called vitaminas) are popular throughout Brazil. But an avocado smoothie? Really?

Brazilians, to the contrary of Americans, think of the avocado as a fruit (and one that should be sweetened rather than salted). Brazilian avocados are larger than North American ones, and a quarter to a half of a Brazilian avocado is plenty for a single-serving smoothie. Try one and you’ll be surprised by how well the flavor of avocado works as a sweet, rather than as a salty, ingredient.

2. Porradinha

This one is a classic among college-aged students in Brazil (anyone from the “older generation” would be ashamed to be seen drinking this in public). To make a porradinha, you should fill half a cup with cachaça, Brazilian rum. Add a small amount of Sprite, Coca-Cola, or other similar soda.

Cover the cup with your hand, lift it and hit the table. The volume of the drink will grow quickly, so try to chug it in only one sip and you will rightly feel like you’ve just levou uma porrada — “took a punch.” Good luck with waking up in time for class the next day.

3. Batida

A batida is Brazil’s word for an alcoholic smoothie. It’s a mix of cachaça (or you can substitute with some other liquor), fruit, ice, and lots of sugar.

Batidas are a favorite at the kiosks that line the beaches along the Brazilian coast. All you have to do is name the fruit — maracujá (passion fruit), coco (coconut), morango (strawberry) — and the vendor will be happy to blend your customized refreshment. Even the caipirinha is just one more type of batida.

4. Caldo de cana

Caldo de cana. Photo by kawanet

Caldo de cana (also called garapa) is literally “sugar juice.” If you peel sugar cane and then run the cane through a pressing machine, it yields a greenish-yellow juice called caldo de cana. Brazilians tend to have a sweet tooth, and this sugar cane juice is available in street markets practically everywhere in Brazil.

Sometimes either lime or pineapple is also added to the beverage. Considering that caldo de cana is normally between 40% to 50% sucrose by dry weight, the overwhelming impression when drinking this popular Brazilian beverage is one of pure sugar. So make sure to try one of these midday for an adult sugar high.

5. Chimarrão

Chimarrão is the Brazilian version of yerba mate. As in Uruguay and Argentina, this special tea is both symbolic and social, and is commonly shared among a group of friends. When sharing chimarrão, the tea is passed around in a metal cup (sometimes with a straw), and everyone takes turns drinking from it.

Chimarrão is considered to have many of the same health benefits as Chinese green tea and has plenty of natural caffeine in it. This drink is much more common in the Southern states of Brazil than anywhere else in the country. There you will see people sipping it everywhere from schools to shopping malls.

6. Agua de coco

Literally meaning “coconut water,” this classic Brazilian drink is often sipped directly out of the coconut itself. Unripe coconuts contain much more liquid than ripe coconuts, since the liquid is absorbed by the flesh of the fruit. So in order to yield top quality agua de coco, green coconuts are plucked off of trees and opened for a sweet and hydrating drink.

Agua de coco can easily be found anywhere near a beach or on the street in Brazil. To show you that their product will be as fresh as possible, vendors will usually cut the coconut open in front of you with a small machete.

7. Guaraná

Guaraná Antartica is the national soft drink of Brazil, and it has a sharp, distinct flavor. It’s also the official sponsor of the Brazilian national football team (yes, they beat Coca-Cola to that title). This drink gets its name from the guaraná berry, an Amazonian fruit that is a natural energy booster; it has twice the caffeine of coffee beans. Guaraná, the soda, has very small amounts of guaraná, the fruit.

8. Drinks made with cashew:

a.) Suco de caju

Suco de caju is a delicious juice made from cashew fruit. Most padarias (bakeries) in Brazil serve this juice, and is a popular breakfast drink. Pretty much every morning I eat this typical Brazilian meal to start the day: a misto quente (Brazilian grilled ham and cheese sandwich) paired with an ice-cold glass of suco de caju.

b.) Cajuína

In the Northeastern Brazilian state of Piauí, the cashew fruit became sort of a state symbol. This is due to cajuína, a type of drink immortalized by the song Cajuína, by the Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso. Cajuína is very sweet and it is also not astringent because there is gelatin added to it, which neutralizes the tannins.

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