Caipiroska: The Cheapest Cocktail in America

The underage friend of a cousin, whom I'll call F. Minor, was talking to me about college life. He'd pledged a fraternity the year before, quickly rising to become a social director of the house. Ignorant of frat life, I had to ask, "What kind of duties does that require?"

He listed some interesting tasks, including procuring kegs of beer and handles of cheap vodka for non-hops drinkers. F. did have some snags with the job, so he asked me, "Do you know any cheap drinks we can make with vodka, besides, like, screwdrivers?" The first thing that popped out of my cocktail database was "Caipiroska," but before I could say it, the small section of my brain that controls responsibility had to interrupt, "Uh, how old are you?"

Too bad about ethics, as the students are going to drink the vodka anyway, or maybe it was a good thing, as the number of screwdrivers that can be tolerated at one party is small.

Caipiroskas are remarkably drinkable beverages, though they just meet the minimum requirements of a cocktail--booze, a little sweet, and a little sour. They're a variation of an even lower-cost drink, the caipirinha, made with cachaça, a rough-hewn spirit that is even cheaper than vodka in Brazil. Caipirioskas were developed by moneyed Brasilians who considered caipirinhas too common, as the very name caipirinha translates as "little hillbilly".

Caipiroskas are made with 4 ingredients--vodka, limes, sugar, and ice. I prefer a mix of white sugar and turbinado, which is commercially seen as "Sugar in the Raw" in coffee shops. My house vodka is Sobieski's, because it's a quality mixer at a low low price, but if you prefer a Texas twist, Tito's Handmade Vodka is one of the best vodkas on the planet.


  • 2 ounces vodka
  • ½ of a lime, cut lengthwise into 4 smaller wedges
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon turbinado
  • Lots of ice

Place the pieces of lime in the bottom of a tall glass, add the sugar, and muddle. Use a light touch to squeeze out the lime juice, but not too much lime oil from the peel. Add the vodka, stir a lot, add ice, stir a lot more. Serve with a straw. If you don't have turbinado, just use 2 teaspoons of sugar.

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