I wouldn’t blame you for picturing yourself sipping on an ice-cold, colorful cocktail or some freshly squeezed juice whenever you think of your next trip to Brazil. Let’s name a few names, though, so you know exactly which Brazilian drinks you’ll be ordering and when.
From the best Brazilian alcohol to traditional beverages that everyone is crazy about — and even a good deal of hidden gems —, everything on our list is guaranteed to get you thirsty and hyped!
Let’s dig in!
Brazilian Alcoholic Drinks
The national spirit, a classic liqueur, the wine young people are obsessed with, and our oldest beer account for our Brazilian drinks 101.
What is the national beverage of Brazil? Because the country grows roughly 40% of the world’s sugarcane, it has to be cachaça. While it’s not hard to mistake cachaça for rum, one comes from distilled sugarcane juice, whereas the other (rum) is actually extracted from molasses. Our strong national liquor has been around since at least the late 1500s!
Head to the historic seaside town of Paraty (around 260 km, or 162 mi, from Rio) and you’ll find dozens of craft cachaças, the absolute finest countrywide, aging in wooden barrels. By the way, what do you drink cachaça with? Well, wait for our last section and you’ll see! Best for last, amirite?
2. Jabuticaba Liqueur
Jabuticabas are the only fruit that grows straight from tree trunks, as far as I know. They’re already special enough for that, yet the liqueur made from these tiny berries is just to die for.
The tastiest jabuticaba liqueurs are the ones from random countryside shops. Never mind that it’s not too easy to track it down: the sweet and rich flavor of this drink will make up for the booze hunt.
3. Catuaba Selvagem
This sweet wine of sorts is purportedly aphrodisiac and is extracted from several plants known as catuaba. Despite being 20+ years old, it took off less than five years ago and, since then, has been all the rage during Carnival.
Why is that? Catuaba Selvagem is cheap, more than three times as intoxicating as beer, and you can totally drink it either cold or at room temperature.
What is the most popular drink in Brazil? Alcohol-wise, it’s cold beer, hands-down. No wonder: it’s perfect for our tropical climate, plus you can drink it basically forever as you hang with your friends without getting (too) wasted. And while bigger brands of Brazilian beer do exist, none is as traditional as Bohemia.
Bohemia was founded in 1853 by Henrique Kremer, a Swiss immigrant who settled in the city of Petrópolis (the summer retreat of Emperor Pedro II, around 70 km, or 43.5 mi, from Rio). Though AB InBev, the planet’s largest brewer, bought out its parent company, Bohemia remains one of the most respected commercial beers in the country.
Traditional Brazilian Drinks
Apart from coffee (and maybe mate), I’m pretty sure this will be the first time you’ll be hearing of the Brazilian beverages in this section.
Despite an increasing demand for espresso, Brazilians’ preferred way of making coffee is through regular coffee machines. We like it black for that matter: the golden ratio is normally 1 tablespoon for 100 mL (3.38 fl oz) of water, which is around three times as strong as American coffee.
Straight coffee and good ole café com leite (i.e. coffee with milk) are the ultimate breakfast drinks in Brazil and fit seamlessly with pão na chapa (pan-fried toasts).
Mate is how we straightforwardly call yerba mate (or erva-mate in Portuguese), a plant endemic to South America that turns into a very bitter tea. People in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, are obsessed with the drink, much like Argentinians, Uruguayans, and Paraguayans.
In Rio, however, mate more often refers to the sweetened iced tea sold by the Leão company, a fixture of the city’s beaches for almost six decades now. The orange-clad vendors typically carry one keg of tea and another of limeade, letting you choose how much of each you want. For the full experience, take a few gulps and ask for a chorinho before the guy leaves, and he’ll top off your cup for free.
It’s hard to define cajuína. It’s neither a soft drink nor exactly a juice (though you do make it from the caramelized juice of cashew apples). A Brazilian pharmacist invented the drink in the early 1900s in the hope of fighting alcoholism.
Cajuína went on to become a part of the cultural heritage of northeastern Brazil, particularly the state of Piauí.
Aluá is a fermented beverage of Afro-indigenous lineage. In the Amazon, where it seems to originate from, aluá is typically made from corn kernels or flour. So it’s somehow related to Peruvian chicha (more on that here).
Yet the version I’m familiar with is called aruá and uses pineapple skins instead, which should rest for no less than three days before the drink is ready. Afterward, people commonly add seasonings such as cloves, ginger, and fennel.
Brazilian Cocktails You Can’t Miss
Spoiler alert: virtually all of the colorful Brazilian drinks here have cachaça in them.
Locals and tourists alike love tangy caipirinhas, which are by far the most famous Brazilian cocktail. And what goes in a caipirinha drink?
Cachaça (obvs), sugar, ice, and diced limes — all shaken together. The word caipirinha translates as “little hilbilly”. Folks in the São Paulo countryside created it about a century ago, allegedly as a home remedy for the flu. Can you believe it?
In 2009, the Brazilian government standardized caipirinhas as a 36% ABV drink at 20°C (68 F). Talk about serious mixology! Popular variations include caipivodka (a.k.a. caipiroska) and caipifruta, in which either strawberries, pineapples, passion fruits, or kiwis replace limes.
Quentão means something along the lines of “big hot”. It’s a soothing word on the cold (fine, chilly) nights of June through August. As the whole nation celebrates Festa Junina, a beloved festival honoring both rural culture and the Catholic saints of June (St. Anthony, St. John, and St. Peter), quentão becomes one of the stars of the party, along with countless corn-, cassava- and peanut-based dishes.
Dessert wine, cachaça, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, and sugar go into this wintertime cocktail.
17. Batida de Frutas
Think of an extra smooth piña colada or an alcoholic smoothie and you’ll know exactly what I’m describing. Batidas have cachaça or vodka as a base, which you then blend with coconut milk strawberry, passion fruit, or pineapple juice, and a sweetener (often condensed milk).
Children commonly drink non-alcoholic batidas at grown-up parties.
18. Rabo de Galo
The phrase rabo de galo literally means “rooster tail”… or “cock tail”! Caipirinhas might be more of a world star, but old-school lowball aficionados will never ditch their Rabo de Galo for them.
Rabo de Galo is made by mixing cachaça, red vermouth, Cynar (an Italian bitters), and tossing in a lime twist just for looks.
This cocktail’s namesake might (still) be better-known than the drink itself; Macunaíma is the anti-hero of the eponymous novel, a classic of Brazilian modernism.
To make Macunaíma, bartenders at Boca de Ouro (a bar in Pinheiors, a fashionable São Paulo neighborhood), shake together cachaça, sugar syrup, lime juice, and Fernet (another Italian bitters). A couple other bars already serve this cocktail as well.
As beloved staples of the cuisine of Brazil, the Brazilian drinks we’ve introduced to you should be part of the package of a trip to the country (or at least most of them). Feeling tempted? Tell us in the comments which ones you simply can’t wait to try!