Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Coconut Caipirinhas

Two words:  coconut zeitgeist.  For reasons beyond my understanding, there is a force at work that keeps pushing coconut under my nose.  First it was the intriguing story of the strange San Francisco woman with tattooed-on freckles and a severe psychological disorder, whose Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club introduced us to the term "hipster toast".  Trouble's menu features an item called Build Your Own Damn House, consisting of a coffee, a piece of cinnamon toast, and a young coconut served with both a straw, for its water, and a spoon to scoop out its soft meat.

Lately, similar young coconuts have been on offer at the juice truck outside the Saturday Silver Lake Farmers Market, and I can't get enough of the young coconut juice slushy at Wat Dong Moon Lek.  Even the über-cool Ace Hotel is in on the game:  at a rooftop event called Discostan (after my own heart) a few Sunday afternoons ago, the frozen drink of the day was piña colada, and everyone had a glass of the frosty stuff in their hand.

It transcends food, though:  I swear by the somewhat hippy-dippy coconut body lotion I've used for years, but lately I've been hearing talk of using straight coconut oil, right from the food aisle, as everything from a hair conditioner to a facial moisturizer, and I gotta say, I'm not mad at the results (anyone else trying this?).

Not that I'm complaining.  I love all of this.  For me the smell of coconut is everything summer:  suntan lotion on the beach, tropical islands with swaying palm trees and pale blue waters.  I'll take it all.

So, you can imagine my delight when last month Smitten Kitchen featured a frozen coconut limeade.  In May, I spent some time in New York (same trip as Montreal), and a good friend introduced me to his adopted neighborhood of Inwood, a forgotten bit of upper-upper-upper Manhattan with old growth forest, Hudson River views, and undeniable Dominican flavor.  We had dinner at a place called Papasito, a Dominican-owned Mexican restaurant*.  No hipster minimalism here; people were here to smoke hookah, eat supple, well-spiced food, drink big pink cocktails, sway to the tropical music, and flirt.  I ordered a coconut caipirinha -- a frosty take on the Brazilian national cocktail of cachaça (Brazilian sugar cane liquor), lime, and sugar -- here mixed with coconut milk and served blended.  It was perfect.

So, In this weekend's killer heat, I invited myself over to the gorgeous home of my good friend Stephanie Alpert, who runs the killa vintage shop Rummage and Hollow, and pretty much forced her to make cocktails with me.
We started with the Smitten Kitchen recipe, doctored it to our liking, and spiked it with cachaça.  In the midst of serious summer heat, we were cool as a coconut.

Coconut Caipirinha
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen.
Makes 6 glasses.

I find it especially fitting to be posting this Brazilian cocktail on the heels of Brazil's pitiable defeat and elimination at the hands (and feet) of Germany yesterday.  If Neymar's tearjerker of a message didn't melt your heart, that game surely broke it.  Thanks for not rioting, Brazil.

5 cups small ice cubes or crushed ice
1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk
juice of 4 limes (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups cachaça
lime slices for garnish

You can go about this two ways:  you can keep your pitcher virgin and add cachaça to the individual servings, or you can go all in from the get-go.  If you choose to do the former, add 2 ounces of cachaça to each glass of limeade mixture, and stir well.

Add all ingredients (save for cachaça, if you're adding it later) to blender and blend until frothy and slushy.  Pour into glasses, and garnish each with a straw and a slice of lime.

* Far be it from this Angeleno to deign to eat New York Mexican food (shudder); I managed to find a decidedly non-Mexican dish on the menu:  plátano relleno.  A plantain roasted in its skin, split lengthwise, and filled with seasoned stewed beef.  This Angeleno chose wisely.

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